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_ „ 1,333,789 

I SOS.' 


f'^ ALBERT S. COOK, Eoitoh 








Prof mo,- oftht EHgtl'h Languagi and Uttralvrt in iht 
Vmt'f t<ty ef IVaiiingten 





IfFJlij^ «t^lifov /Sijliix J^&s 


ALBERT S. COOK, Editor V ' • ' 

I ••• 

XV "■' I" ■' 








Professor of the English Language and Literature in the 

University of Washington 




Copyright, 1902, 


Frederick Morgan Padelford, Ph.D. 

■T ■,."..■ • •■ 


• - • 





Preface, ........ 7 

Introduction, . . . . . . .11 

Plutarch's Theory of Poetry, ..... 13 

The Life of St. Basil and the Address to Young Men, 33 

How A Young Man Should Study Poetry, . . .45 

Outline, ....... 47 

Translation, ....... 49 

Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Litera- 
ture, ........ 97 

Outline, ........ 99 

Translation, ....... loi 

Appendix, ........ 121 

Index, ........ 125 


The recent very general interest in poetics has led me to 
prepare these translations of the essays on poetry by Plu- 
tarch and Basil the Great, in the hope that they may prove 
useful to students of literature. Although they were not 
epoch-making, these essays are worthy of consideration, for, 
besides their intrinsic value, they mark interesting stages in 
the history of poetic criticism. 

The essay on How a Young Man Ought to Study Poetry 
was first rendered into English by Philemon Holland, who 
made a complete translation of the Morals, which was issued 
in octavo from the press of Arnold Hatfield, a London 
printer, in 1603. Its title reads as follows: *The Philoso- 
phic, commonlie called The Morals, written by the learned^ 
Philosopher PUitarch of Chaeronea. Translated out of 
Greek into English, and conferred with the Latin translations 
and the French, by Philemon Holland of Coventrie, Doctor 
in Physicke. Whereunto are annexed the Summaries neces- 
sary to be read before ever}^ Treatise/ This version, though 
its archaism possesses an undeniable charm, is not alto- 
gether adapted to modern requirements. A second edition, 
*newly revised and corrected,' appeared in 1657, and this 
was followed not many years later by the translation of the 
Morals *by Several Hands,' published in London in 1684- 
1694. To this work Simon Ford contributed the version of 
the essay on Hon; a Young Man Ought to Study Poetry. 
Ford's translation is clumsy, frequently obscure, and often 
wide of the Greek. In 1870 Professor Goodwin offered a 
corrected and revised text of this rendering of the Morals, 
and the fact that the sixth edition appeared in 1898 attests 
the usefulness of this revised version. However, of the 
essay under consideration much more than a revision of 


Ford's translation is needed, if the essay is to assume its 
proper place in our study of poetics. 

There seems to have been one separate translation of 
Basil's homily into English, although it is not recorded in 
the catalogue of the British Museum. It appeared at the 
press of John Cawood in octavo form, and was printed in 
black letter. According to Ames and Herbert^ it bore the 
following title: *An Homelye of Basilius Magnus, Howe 
Younge Men oughte to reade Poets and Oratours. Trans- 
lated out of Greke. Anno M. D. LVII/ Nothing seems 
to be known about the author. 

It is interesting to find that the two essays of Plutarch 
and Basil were associated by Archbishop Potter of Canter- 
bury in the first of his learned publications. In 1694, when 
barely twenty,^ and just after he was made a Fellow of 
Lincoln College, he published at Oxford an octavo volume 
with the following title: *Variantes Lectiones et Notae ad 
Plutarchi librum de Audiendis Poetis ; et ad Basilii Magni 
Orationem ad Juvenes.' In 1753 a second edition of this 
book was issued at Glasgow. Potter, however, was not the 
first to associate these essays; in 1600 Martin Haynoccius 
published them in an Enchiridion Ethicum, and Grotius 
brought out an edition of the two at Paris in 1623. 

A German dissertation, De Fontibtis Plutarchi Comment, 
de Audiendis Poetis et de Fortuna, written by August 
Schlemm, and published at Gottingen in 1894, shows the 
probable indebtedness of Plutarch's essay to the lost writ- 
ings of the Stoics and Peripatetics. I am indebted to Herr 
Schlemm for several of my notes, and offer his conclusions 
in an appendix. 

In the present renderings an attempt has been made to 
express the spirit and style of the originals, and thus to 
reproduce the looseness and indirectness of Plutarch's 
thought, as well as the conciseness and rapid movement of 
Basil's language. The translation of Plutarch follows the 

* Typographical Antiquities, London, 1785-6-90. 

* See Diet, Nat. Biog, s. v. John Potter. 



text of Bemardakis, and the rendering of Basil the text 
of Migne. Acknowledgment should be made of sugges- 
tions taken from the earlier English translations of Plutarch, 
from the German version of Basil by Kaltwasser, and from 
Maloney's school edition of Basil's essay. For the many 
quotations from the Iliad and the Odyssey, the translations 
by Lang, Leaf, and Myers, and by Butcher and Lang, have 
been adopted; wherever quotations from Plato or from 
Aristotle's Poetics have been embodied in the notes, the ver- 
sions of Jowett and of Butcher have been followed. 

The notes attempt to show the indebtedness of the essays 
to earlier Greek literature, and to furnish interesting paral- 
lels from the classics, but do not cite the many passages from 
modem writers which are similar in thought. Biographical 
notices are taken from Johnson's Encyclopaedia, Smith's 
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 
and Muller's Handbuch der Klassischen Alterthumswissen- 
schaft. Fragments from the Greek philosophers, drama- 
tists, and lyrists, are referred to the collections of MuUach, 
Nauck, Meineke, and Bergk, even when these essays furnish 
the sources for the fragments. A few quotations and allu- 
sions have escaped me, and I shall be grateful to any reader 
who will direct my attention to the originals. 

The preparation of this volume was undertaken at the 
suggestion of Professor Albert S. Cook, and it owes much 
to his interest. Professor (George D. B. Pepper, ex-Presi- 
dent of Colby College, has read the translations with pains- 
taking care, and Dr. Charles Grosvenor Osgood, Jr., of Yale 
University, has read both translations and introduction ; to 
their suggestions the book, whatever its imperfections, is 
greatly indebted. To my colleagues, Dr. Thomas F. Kane 
and Dr. Arthur S. Haggett, with whom I have frequently 
advised, I also acknowledge my obligations. 

F. M. P. 

Seattle, Washington. 

August i6, 1902. 



Unless one accepts the theory, playfully or otherwise 
advanced in the Ion, that the poet is but the instrument of 
an overmastering divinity, he is often at a loss to explain the 
inability of many a genius in the world of art and letters to 
judge of the relative excellence of his own creations. 
Michel Angelo eagerly dropped the brush and resumed the 
chisel, with the joy of one who returns to the work he loves 
after interruption, and yet succeeding generations have been 
unable to tell whether they admire more the frescoes of the 
Chapel or the Pieta; Wordsworth, the author of Michael, 
the Daffodils, and 'There Was a Boy,' with infinite self-satis- 
faction drew out the prolonged monotony of the Excursion 
as the supreme work of a lifetime ; and he whose imagination 
swept from the Visible darkness' of the throne of Chaos 
to the skirts of God, 'dark with excessive bright,' failed 
to see how far the intensity, sublimity, and mighty organ- 
tones of Paradise Lost excel the unimpassioned finish of 
Paradise Regained, 

In a similar way Plutarch misjudged his productions, 
for although he regarded philosophy as the ideal field for 
the mind's activity, he was not profound enough nor subtle 
enough to excel as a philosopher, so that the Morals are 
hardly known more than by title to the cultivated reader of 
to-day, while the Lives, those 'idealized ethical portraits,' as 
Professor Perrin calls them, have charmed generations of 
English readers by their freshness and spirit, and are found 
on many a book-shelf where poverty allows them no other 
companions save Shakespeare and the Bible. 

And yet the Morals have great value historically. No 
other extant writings give so complete and satisfactory a 
record of custom and thought in the late Greek period. 



Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

Domestic life in its many phases, affairs of government 
questions of religion and ethics, the investigations of science 
and the problems of art, all find a place in the pages of this 
multifarious collection of essays. 

The student of poetry, and of aesthetics in general, will 
find these essays fruitful or barren according to the point 
of view from which they are approached. If, in the essay 
on poetry, the reader looks for intrinsic excellence in criti- 
cism, he will be disappointed, and will find many pages that 
are distressingly pedantic, and many that are commonplace 
and trivial; thus, when the charming episode of Nausicaa 
and Odysseus is made the subject of prudish speculation, the 
reader is equally offended by the triteness of the thought 
and by the writer's pragmatism. If, however, Plutarch is 
regarded as an exponent of the thought and feeling of his 
time, the essay ^ is full of significance, for it shows the 
attempts of decadent Greece to deal with an art which had 
been the glory of the classical period. 

Accordingly, the following pages will attempt an analysis 
of Plutarch's theory of poetry, the material furnished by the 
essay on poetry being supplemented by gleanings here and 
there from essays on other subjects. First will be consid- 
ered Plutarch's theory of the distinction between poetry and 
prose; secondly, his theory of the relation of poetry to ^ 
nature and to truth ; thirdly, his theory of the end of fine art. 

Wherein do poetry and prose differ? Although Plutarch 
does not follow Aristotle in threatening the established 
tradition which made metrical form essential to poetry,^ 
he does agree with him in saying that the nature of its sub- 
ject largely determines whether a composition is prose or 
poetry.* With playful disdain he criticizes the early Greek 
philosophers and naturalists for presenting didactic sub- 
jects metrically: The verses of Empedocles and Par- 
menides, Nicander's verses on antidotes to poisons, and the 
maxims of Theognis, borrowed the poetic form and dignity 
only as a sort of riding-carriage to avoid footing it.'^ 

^ Poet, i. 5; ix. 9. *Ibid. i. 7-8; ix. 2. ^See p. 53. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

This idea is more elaborately developed in the essay entitled 
Why the Pythian Priestess Ceases her Oracles in Versed 
Vanity and love of display, united with a certain racial apti- \ 
tude, led men to clothe history and philosophy in verse, 
though these subjects, being of a grave and solid nature, and 
designed to teach rather than to move, demand the severity 
and directness of prose. Subjects of a didactic nature are 
purely intellectual, and demand perfect simplicity in expres- 

Poetry, on the other hand, is the product of intellect and 
feeling combined, and hence, because its appeal is quite as 
much to the feelings as to the intellect, requires the sensu-| 
ousness of verse. In the Symposiacs there is a discussion) 
of why it is commonly said that love makes a man a poet, 
and one Sossius offers the following explanation: 'One 
would do well to explain it in the light of Theophrastus' dis- 
course on music, a book that I have just finished reading. 
Theophrastus holds that music has three causes, grief, joy, 
and inspiration, since each one of these alters the wonted 
tone of the voice. Grief utters its mournful lamentations in 
song, which explains why orators in their perorations, and 
actors in their lamentings, employ soft and musical cadence. 
Intense and excessive joy completely carries away the 
lighter-minded fellows, and incites them to hop about and 
frisk and keep their steps, even though they know nothing 
about dancing ; as Pindar has it, "The frenzy and shouts of 
those aroused, and their wild tossings of the head." But 
men of taste and refinement, when subject to this emotion, 
are incited only to sing and to give voice to verse and mel- 
ody. Inspiration most of all changes the customary state 
of body and voice. Whence the Bacchae use rhythm, and 
the inspired give forth their oracles in metre, and one 
sees few madmen who do not utter their insane ravings 
in poetry and song. Such being the case, if you should 
observe love with a critical eye and examine closely into it, 
you would find that no other passion is attended with more 

^ 23-24. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

bitter grief, more intense and excessive joy, or great 
ecstasy and madness. A lover's soul looks like Sophocle 
city, "At the same moment it is full of sacrifices, of paear 
and of lamentations."^ Wherefore it is not strange or su 
prising that, since love contains all the causes of music- 
grief, joy, and inspiration — ^and is also prone to talk ar 
babble, it should be more inclined than any other passic 
to the making of poetry and songs. But although th^ 
poet must be a man of sensitive emotions, not every m^ 
of sensibility will be a poet. The power to express passiot-^ 
ate feeling in language melodious, rhythmical, and nobly 
embellished is a gift to rare temperaments. Consequently, 
when Euripides says that "Love makes men poets who before 
no music knew,"^ he does not mean that love infuses music 
and poetry into men that were not already inclined to them, 
but that it warms and awakens that disposition which lay 
inactive and drowsy before. . . . Poetic rapture, like the 
raptures of love, makes use of the ability of its subject.'^ 
It was because this temperamental aptitude was general 
among the early Greeks that they produced such a wealth of 
poetry. A people whose civilization favored a natural and 
sincere play of the emotions was equipped with a genius for 
metrical utterance, and responded to the slightest excitation 
with spontaneous and melodious poetry; accordingly their 
banquets, where wine flowed and spirits were high, were 
graced with charming odes and love-songs.* 

But while emotion plays a large part in poetry, as already 
stated poetry is the product, not of feeling alone, but of 
intellect as well ; one must therefore not allow such a pas- 
sage as that quoted above, which, moreover, is dealing 
strictly with lyrics, to cause him to overlook the emphasis 
laid upon wisdom and judgment as factors in the production 
of poetry. Indeed, by this very word 'enthusiasm,' Plutarch 
does not mean that the poet's personality is lost while the 

> Oed. Tyr. 4. 

* Nauck 666. 

^Why the Pythian Priestess Ceases her Oracles in Verse 23. 

* Ibid. 23. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

god is speaking through him, for he is too much of a 
rationalist to entertain such a theory of divine possession; 
rather, that the god uses each poet according to the ability 
which nature and training have given him. Even the 
Pythian priestess, if brought up among the ignorant, must 
utter her oracles in prose.^ 

The necessity for this element of judgment in the produc- 
tion of works of art is considered at length in the essay On 
Music,^ The thought is that he is the best musician who 
combines the greatest amount of skill with the best judg- 
ment. By skill is meant the technical understanding of 
the different modes, such as the Dorian, the Ionian, and the 
Phrygian, and the ability to play or sing in any one of them 
without violating the laws of harmony. Judgment is an 
inclusive term, comprising the ability to discover the nature 
and genius of the poem, to choose for it the mode which is 
most appropriate, and to judge of the coherency of all the 
component parts.^ As to the importance of a knowledge of 
philosophy for the production, or the appreciation, of music, 
Plutarch does not go to the extreme of Pythagoras, who 
'rejected the judging of music by the senses, affirming that 
the virtue of music could be appreciated only by the intel- 
lect,'* yet he does advise him who would be proficient in 
this art to acquaint himself with all sciences, and especially 
to make philosophy his tutor.* 

It is needless to enforce this point further by citing 
passages from the essay on poetry; suffice it to say that 
Plutarch thought that poetry of real excellence must be 
grounded in philosophy. 

To summarize the conclusions already reached: while 
prose is didactic, and appeals to the intellect, poetry is 

^ Ibid. 22. 

^ Among the Greeks music was accessory to poetry. Throughout 
this essay the intimate relation of poetry and music is apparent on every 
page, at times it being almost impossible to tell whether the writer is 
speaking of the one or the other. In this essay Plutarch follows the 
theories of Aristoxenus and Heraclides. 

*3i ff. * Ibid. 37 ; see Plato, Laws ii, 659. * Ibid. 23. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

emotional, and the product of feeling as well as of intellect. 
Further, poetical power is a gift, but a gift that may be 
refined by proper training — indeed, a gift that cannot be pos- 
sessed by the altogether untutored. 

So much for Plutarch's distinction between prose and 
poetry. Let us now consider his theory of the relation of 
poetry to nature and to truth. 

Does poetry copy nature or transcend it ? Is it truthful or 
untruthful? Is it universal or restricted? We shall find an 
answer to these questions in determining Plutarch's use of 
the expression 'imitation.' Imitation as applied to the arts 
was employed by Greek writers very generally, and widely 
differing theories of its nature were held. As both Plato 
and Aristotle give much prominence to this term in their 
discussions of art, it will be helpful to examine somewhat 
carefully their employment of the word, in order that Plu- 
tarch's views may be seen against the background of earlier 
Greek thought. In the tenth book of the Republic,^ where the 
work of poet and painter is discussed, we find the following 
train of thought : The artist is one who turns a mirror round 
and round, and catches the reflection of objects — of the sun, 
the heavens, the earth, plants, animals, men. There is the 
ideal world as it exists in the mind of God, for example, the 
ideal plant, table, or man ; the actual world which produces 
plants, tables, or men imitative of the ideal ; and the world 
of the artist, in which are copied the appearances of the 
objects in the actual world. Imitative art is therefore an 
imitation of an imitation, and further from truth than the 
world of nature about us; it is three removes from God. 
Useful art is superior to imitative art, for the carpenter who 
makes a bed is better employed than the painter who repro- 
duces the appearance of the bed, and the general who con- 
ducts a campaign than Homer, the poet of battles.^ 

' 595-607. 

* See Plutarch, Whether the Athenians were More Renowned for their 
Warlike Achievements or their Learning cc. vi-viii, for an elaborate 
argument that more honor belongs to commanders than to poets, 
orators, and historians. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

Further light is thrown on this conception of imitation 
in the Third Book,^ where it is defined as the assimilation 
of oneself to another, whose character is assumed. Pre- 
cisely because any such assumption of the character of 
another is undignified, unnatural, and insincere, because, for 
example, the poet, not being a cobbler, can never really act the 
cobbler, all imitative artists were to leave the Republic, even 
though the banishment included the much loved Homer. 
All art, however, was not excluded, for Plato implies a 
distinction between imitative art and true art. The best 
art is the sincere and direct expression of a courageous 
and harmonious life, not the product of the fancy of some 
'pantomimically- versatile' imitator. The Republic is a return 
to simplicity, and that poetry alone is permissible which 
expresses the simplicity of a mind so nobly ordered that, 
whether in action or repose, it expresses the highest moral 
energy. The temper of this, the true artist-soul, gives char- 
acter to the words, and through the words to the rhythm 
and harmony. Rhythm and harmony, then, become formal 
expressions of the great virtues, bravery and temperance; 
they give to the senses graceful and beautiful expression of 
true beauty and grace, for, in Plato's very words, 'grace and 
harmony are the sisters and images of goodness and vir- 
tue.'^ Such rhythm and harmony find their way into the 
inmost part of the soul of the listener, and render right the 
form of his soul through their rightness of form.* Such 
art is one with the music of the spheres; it is divine 
beauty and loveliness.* 

In the Poetics of Aristotle imitation is used in two senses. 
In an early chapter, where Aristotle simply wishes to show 
that the instinct of imitation is universal, occurs the foUow- 

^393- *4oi. '402. 

*In Laws vii. 817, in a less severe vein Plato is more generous to 
tragedy, speaking of it as above of ideal art : * Our whole state is an 
imitation of the best and noblest life, which we affirm to be indeed the 
very truth of tragedy.' Likewise, in Laws ii. 667-669, imitative art is 
defined as. good when it truthfully reproduces the original as to propor> 
tions, etc., and is beautiful, 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

ing statement : Toetry in general seems to have sprung from 
two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, 
the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, 
one difference between him and other animals being that he 
is the most imitative of living creatures ; and through imita- 
tion he learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal 
is the pleasure felt in things imitated. We have evidence 
of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in them- 
selves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when 
reproduced with minute fidelity, such as the forms of the 
most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. The cause of 
this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not 
only to philosophers, but to men in general, whose capacity 
of learning, however, is more limited. Thus the reason why 
men enjoy seeing a likeness is that in contemplating it they 
find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, 
"Ah, that is he." For if you happen not to have seen the 
original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as 
such, but to the execution, the coloring, or some such 

That Aristotle is speaking of imitation in general, and not 
of artistic imitation, is at once apparent when one reads in 
pother chapters that 'Poetry imitates men as they ought to 
be ;'^ that it 'is a more philosophical and a higher thing than 
history,'® for the 'one relates what has happened, the other 
what may happen;'* that 'poetry tends to express the uni- 
versal, history the particular.'*^ In essence Aristotle says 
that poetry is not limited to the actual deeds of men who 
have lived, but that, freeing itself from the trammels of the 
accidental, the temporary, and the local, it portrays men 
nobler than nature, though such men as nature's tendencies 
toward the ideal would produce. The poet sees through and 

1 iv. 1-5. 

* Poet. i. 5 ; see also xxv. 6 : * Further, if it be objected that the 
description is not true to fact, the poet may perhaps reply, "But the 
objects are as they ought to be ; " just as Sophocles said that he drew 
men as they ought to be drawn ; Euripides as they are.' 

«Ibid. ix. 3. Mbid. ix. 2. »Ibid. ix. 3. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

beyond nature to the models of her workmanship. Thus, 
good portrait-painters, 'while reproducing the distinctive 
form of the original, make a likeness which is true to life, 
and yet more beautiful. So, too, the poet, in representing 
men quick or slow to anger, or with other defects of charac- 
ter, should preserve the type and yet ennoble it. In this 
way Achilles is portrayed by Agathon and Homer.'^ 

Further, artistic imitation does not include the portrayal 
of animals and of still life. The objects of aesthetic imita- 
tion are rjOrj, vafirj, and ^po^cis, which Butcher defines as 
*the characteristic moral qualities, transient emotions, and 
actions in their proper and inward sense,'^ meaning by the 
last, actions which are the inevitaible expression of intellec- 
tual and emotional activity. Men acting, therefore, Aristotle 
defines as the objects imitated by the fine arts, because such 
actions as the artist makes use of spring from a deep source, 
and are but the outward manifestations of the movements of 
the soul. 

Plutarch treats the subject of imitation as follows: 'We 
shall still more thoroughly ground the young man, if, on 
introducing him to poetry, we explain to him that it is 
an imitative art and agent, analogous to painting. Not only 
must he be made acquainted with the common saying that 
poetry is vocal painting, and painting silent poetry, but we 
must teach him also that when we see a painting of a lizard, 
an ape, or the face of Thersites, our pleasure and surprise 
are occasioned, not by the beauty of the object, but by 
its likeness. For it is naturally impossible for the ugly 
to be beautiful, but it is the imitation which is praised if it 
reproduce to the life either an ugly or a beautiful object. 
On the other hand, if an ugly object is represented as beau- 
tiful, we deny the truthfulness or the consistency of the 
picture. Now there are some artists who paint uncomely 
actions; thus Timotheus pictured Medea killing her chil- 
dren ; Theon showed Orestes murdering his mother ; Parr- 

^ Ibid. XV. 8. 

* Butcher, Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art c. ii. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

hasius, Odysseus counterfeiting madness; and Chaere- 
phanes, the unchaste converse of women with men. In such 
instances it is especially important that the young man come 
to understand that we do not praise the action which is imi- 
tated, but the art, provided the subject is treated accurately. 
Since now poetry also frequently describes base actions 
and depraved emotions and character, the youth must not 
confound their artistic admirableness and success with 
truth, nor rank them as beautiful, but he is to praise them 
only as accurate and natural likenesses of the things treated. 
For as we are annoyed when we hear the grunting of a 
hog, the noise of pulleys, the whistling of the wind, and 
the roaring of the seas, but are pleased if any one imitates 
them with naturalness, as Parmenio did the hog,^ and Theo- 
dorus the pulleys ; and as we avoid the unpleasant sight of 
an unhealthy man with festering sores, but take pleasure 
in witnessing the Philoctetes of Aristophon and the Jocasta of 
Silanion^ — which are realistic likenesses of wasting and dying 

^ See Symposiacs v. i : * For upon what account, for God's sake, 
from what external impression upon our organ, should men be moved 
to admire Parmenio's sow so much as to pass it into a proverb ? Yet it 
is reported, that Parmenio being very famous for imitating the grunting 
of a pig, some endeavored to rival and outdo him. And when the 
hearers, being prejudiced, cried out, ** Very well indeed, but nothing 
comparable to Parmenio's sow ;" one took a pig under his arm and came 
upon the stage. And when, though they heard the very pig, they still 
continued, *' This is nothing comparable to Parmenio's sow ;" he threw 
his pig amongst them, to show that they judged according to opinion 
and not truth.* [This translation is taken from the Goodwin edition.] 
See Rep. iii. 397, for Plato's condemnation of this kind of imitation : 
* But another sort of character will narrate an)rthing, and the worse he 
is the more unscrupulous he will be ; nothing will be beneath him : 
moreover he will be ready to imitate anything, not as a joke, but in right 
good earnest, and before a large audience. As I was just now saying, 
he will attempt to represent the roll of thunder, the rattle of wind and 
hail, or the various sounds of pulleys, of pipes, of flutes, and all sorts 
of instruments : also he will bark like a dog, bleat like a sheep, and 
crow like a cock ; his entire art will consist in imitation of voice and 
gesture, and there will be very little narration.' 

'Ibid.: * And therefore, because he that is really affected with grief 
or anger presents us with nothing but the common bare passion, but in 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

persons — so when the youth reads what Thersites the buf- 
foon, or Sisyphus the debaucher, or Batrachus the brothel- 
keeper says or does, he must be taught to praise the genius 
and the art which imitates them, but to censure the subjects 
and actions with opprobrium. For the excellence of a 
thing and the excellence of its imitation are not the same. 
Fitness and naturalness constitute excellence, but to things 
base, the base is natural and fit.'^ 

To this passage two questions address themselves: What 
are the subjects of aesthetic imitation, and what is its nature? 

The first may be answered without trouble: clearly all 
forms of life are legitimate for artistic treatment — inferior 
types of animal life, such as a lizard or an ape, as well as 
heroic men like Achilles and Hector; and in human con- 
duct, immorality and obscenity, as well as self-control and 

In making all objects proper for artistic reproduction, 
Plutarch showed that, in theory at least, he was far from 
assigning poetry the exalted place which Aristotle had 
given it. Not only did Aristotle exclude all but human 

the imitation some dexterity and persuasiveness appears, we are nat- 
urally inclined to be disturbed at the former, whilst the latter delights 
us. It is unpleasant to see a sick man, or one that is at his last gasp ; 
yet with content we can look upon the picture of Pkiloctetes^ or the 
statue of Jocasta^ in whose face it is commonly said that the workmen 
mixed silver, so that the brass might represent the face and color of 
one ready to faint and yield up the ghost. And this, said I, the Cyre- 
niacs may use as a strong argument against you Epicureans, that all 
the sense of pleasure which arises from the working of any object on 
the ear or eye is not in those organs, but in the intellect itself. Thus 
the continued cackling of a hen or cawing of a crow is very ungrateful 
and disturbing ; yet he that imitates those noises well pleases the 
hearers. Thus to behold a consumptive man is no delightful spec- 
tacle ; yet with pleasure we can view the pictures and statues of such 
persons, because the very imitating hath something in it very agreeable 
to the mind, which allures and captivates its faculties.* [Goodwin ed.] 
* See pp. 58-60. See also the Symposiacs i. i, where is discussed the 
question of why we take delight in hearing those that represent the 
passions of men angry or sorrowful, and yet cannot without concern 
behold those who are really so affected. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

life from art, but he discriminated between the artistic excel- 
lence of noble and of ignoble conduct. To such subjects as 
Chaerephanes painted he all but denied the name of art, 
for they represent conduct false and temporary, and stand 
for nothing permanent nor structural. The nobler the types 
of character which the poet imitates the more will his work 
be artistic. Aristotle would have had little sympathy with 
one who could find matter for artistic approval in the ugly 
or in the immoral, however correctly delineated. 

We find further evidence that Plutarch did not appre- 
ciate Aristotle's conception of the proper subject-matter 
for art in his use of the terms v^Vy '^ojOrj, and irpaius, since, 
although he employed them freely, he did not appreciate 
their combined idea, for he robbed the expression men act- 
ing of its Aristotelian significance by using ^/oya, wpdyfjLay 
and Trpait^ quite interchangeably.^ 

Turning now to the consideration of the nature of aes- 
thetic imitation, we find such expressions in the above 
passage as likeness (5fioiov), truthfulness (cikos) consist- 
ency (irpiirov) , reproduction to the life {€<l>iK'qT€UT7Js ofwiorriro^) ^ 

and naturalness (iriSavm) bringing us face to face with 
the question of the relation of poetry to truth. Is poetry 
a reproduction of life as it appears to the outward eye, or is 
it rather a reproduction of that archetypal existence of which 
life as we commonly see it is but a reflection ? 

The answer is furnished by the chapter of the essay on 
poetry which discusses poetic deception (c. ii.). I venture 
to outline the thought of this rather incoherent passage: 
The poets falsify both intentionally and unintentionally; 
intentionally in two ways, and first through the use of plot. 
To gain an audience the poet weaves a fabric of fiction. 
This is winsome and engaging in proportion to its illusion 

^ See the Essay on Poetry c. iii : kv oIq /idhara del rbv viov kdiCeaOai, 
itdcujKdfievov bri rifv irpd^iv ovk iiraivovjiiev tjq yeyovev i) fiifiriaig, aTJia t^v 
rixyvv el fiejuifjUfrai irpoatfK&ifTijg rd viroiteifievov. iirel Toivw kol itoLTjTLKT) ttoX- 
%6.ia£ ipya 0ai>Aa koI ir&drj fioxOtfpa koI ffiri fiifiriTtKCiQ airayyi?^7iei — ; aXM rov- 
vavrlov jJ irpdg rd irpdaunov imo^la diafid^^i koI rb npayfia Kot rbv \6yov — . 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

and its probability, but illusion and probability must be 
secured in spite of a departure from the events of real life 
and from the fixed truth. Actual events are not pleasant to 
contemplate, but poetry is made attractive by so shaping 
events that an agreeable denouement results. This makes 
the writer of fiction relatively indifferent to truth, and there- 
fore Socrates, the champion of truth, found it impossible to 
invent plots, and was forced to borrow the fables of Aesop 
when he would write poetry. 

Again, the poets falsify intentionally by attributing to 
the gods or to the dead, actions which are imtrue to their 
natures, or by putting faulty moral sentiments in the mouths 
of characters. These things they do to secure emotional 
effects, wherefore one must not surrender himself unduly to 
the influence of poetry, but must remember its deceptive 
juggling, and bear in mind that the poet is an enchanter 
whose magic it is not safe to trust. 

The poets also falsify unintentionally. They are con- 
stantly giving utterance to doctrines which are vicious and 
dangerous in their tendencies, such as the doctrine that death 
is pitiable, and the want of burial a terrible disaster. The 
reason for this is that since his productions may be enter- 
taining and convincing without much heed to morality, the 
poet is not compelled to search out the basic ethical truths. 

Returning now to the point of departure, in the light of 
this chapter there is little trouble in understanding what 
Plutarch means by likeness, truthfulness, consistency, repro- 
duction to the life, and naturalness. Evidently he means 
nothing more than that poetry reproduces life with an 
acceptable degree of probability. There is no hint that 
poetry imveils the lovely figure of nature in her essential 
truthfulness, nature which, aside from poetry, is seen only 
in imperfect outline. Plutarch thinks poetry less truthful 
than real life, because it is concerned with what has never 
actually taken place. He fails to discriminate between actu- 
ality and truth. 

Here we are at the opposite pole from Aristotle, who 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

conceived of poetry as more truthful than history, because 
free to present life as it ought to be, life as it would be 
under ideal conditions,* and who held that seriousness is 
an essential quality in poetry, since such action as reveals 
the inner significance of life must be grave and great. 
To the following words in the above passage: 'Since now 
poetry also frequently describes base actions, and unseemly 
emotions and characters, the youth must not confound their 
artistic admirableness and success with truth, or rank them 
as beautiful, but is to praise them only as accurate and natu- 
ral likenesses of the things treated,' Aristotle would probably 
have rejoined: 'One must of necessity confound artistic 
admirableness with truth, for there can be no artistic excel- 
lence apart from truth; you cannot present an accurate 
likeness of an object if truth be absent, else your likeness 
will be but a superficial and spiritless semblance.' 

In thus failing to discriminate between actuality and truth, 
Plutarch accords with Plato in his idea of imitation. How- 
ever, one must bear in mind that the great philosopher's 
implied distinction between imitative art and art that is sin- 
cere finds no correspondence in Plutarch. 

If poetry does not express truth in large measure, if it 
is not based upon that underlying reality, that &pxn9 which 
from the time of Thales had stood to the Greeks as both 
beginning and end, as source and destiny, whither does Plu- 
tarch turn for truth? To that source from which poetry 
has derived what measure of truth it possesses, namely, phi- 

* Of the relation of poetry to history, Plutarch writes as follows, in 
the opening paragraph of the Lt/e of Theseus : *As geographers, Sosius, 
crowd into the edges of their maps parts of the world which they do 
not know about, adding notes in the margin to the effect that beyond 
this lies nothing but sandy deserts full of wild beasts, unapproachable 
bogs, Scythian ice, or a frozen sea, so, in this work of mine, in which I 
have compared the lives of the greatest men with one another, after 
passing through those periods which probable reasoning can reach 
and real history find a footing in, I might very well say of those that are 
farther off: Beyond this there is nothing but prodigies and fictions, the 
only inhabitants are the poets and inventors of fables ; there is no 
credit or certainty any farther.' 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

losophy. Philosophy is the search for reality; it is the 
supreme achievement of the mind.* With philosophy, 
poetry, being relatively independent of truth, has no neces- 
sary connection. To be sure, poetry may be measurably 
truthful, may be infused with moral feeling, as are the works 
of Homer, yet it is none the less poetry if it be false and a 
violation of moral teaching, as is much dramatic and lyric 

Plutarch's unrestricted use of the term poetry explains 
what might seem endless contradiction in his writings. Since 
poetry is so inclusive a term, embracing indiflferently the 
bad as well as the good, he can entertain Plato's fears lest., 
poetry mislead and injure youth, and, on the other hand, I 
he can commend the Homeric poems as the formative influ- | 
ence in the life of his favorite hero, Alexander.^ He can 

* See 0/ the Training of Children c. x : *We ought to make philoso- 
phy the chief of all our learning. . . . There is but one remedy for the 
distempers of the mind, and that is philosophy. For by the advice and 
assistance thereof it is that we come to understand what is honest, and 
what dishonest ; what is just and what unjust ; in a word, what we are 
to seek, and what to avoid. We learn by it how we are to demean our- 
selves towards the gods, towards our parents, our elders, the laws, 
strangers, governors, friends, wives, children, and servants. That is, 
we are to worship the gods, to honor our parents, to reverence our 
elders, to be subject to the laws, to obey our governor, to love our 
friends, to use sobriety towards our wives, to be affectionate to our 
children, and not to treat our servants insolently ; and, which is the 
chiefest lesson of all, not to be overjoyed in prosperity nor too much 
dejected in adversity ; not to be dissolute in our pleasures, nor in our 
anger to be transported with brutish rage and fury. These things I 
account the principal advantages which we gain by philosophy.* Of the 
Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Great^-Ox^X, ii. c. xi : * And for my 
part, I know not how to give a greater applause to the action of Alexan- 
der, than by adding the word philosophically^ for in that word all other 
things are included.* [These translations are taken from the Goodwin 

^ Of the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Greats Orat. ii. c. iv : 
* Then again, if any dispute arose or judgment were to be given upon 
any of Homer's verses, either in the schools or at meals, this that fol- 
lows Alexander always preferred above the rest : ** Both a good king, 
and far renowned in war (//. iii. 179)," believing that the praise which 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

even accept the Aristotelian theory^ that the tragic or epic 
hero should be a man of noble and heroic parts, one just 
enough infected with passion to be vulnerable, for he says : 

I 'Poetry is an imitation of character and of life, and of men 
who are not wholly perfect, pure, and blameless, but in 
some degree subject to passion, error, and ignorance/^ 

If now we summarize this discussion of Plutarch's theory 
of the relation of poetry to nature and to truth, we find that 
he merely accepted the traditional interpretation of the techni- 
cal term, imitation, quite failing to comprehend the peculiar 
significance of the word in the criticism of Aristotle, and, 
further, that he did not appreciate the distinction which 
Plato made by implication between imitative and true poetry. 
As the result of so crude a conception of this significant 
term in aesthetics, he demanded nothing more of poetry than 
that it reproduce character, emotion, and action with reason- 
able probability; poetry may be truthful, but truth is a 
fundamental requisite only in philosophy. 

There remains for consideration Plutarch's theory of the 
end of poetry. The traditional Greek view of the mission of 
poetry is concretely expressed in the following sentence 
from Strabo : *The ancients called poetry a kind of elemen- 
tary philosophy, which introduces us to life while we are 
yet youths, and teaches character, emotion, and action 
through pleasure.'^ In accordance with this theory, the 
poets, especially Homer, were taught in the schools, the boys 
committing choice passages; and, as we know from St. 
Chrysostom, this custom was followed among the Greeks 
even as late as the fourth century.* That this traditional 

another by precedence of time had anticipated was to be a law also 
unto himself, and saying that Homer in the same verse had extolled the 
fortitude of Agamemnon and prophesied of Alexander.' 

* Poet, xiii. 2-3 ; xv. 8. ^ See p. 74. ^i. 2. 3. 

* Orat, xi. p. 308 : * To accept this inspired and wise man (Homer), 
and to teach his words to youth even from infancy.' See also Plato, 
Protagoras 326: * And when the boy has learned his letters and is begin- 
ning to understand what is written, . . . they put into his hands the 
works of great poets, which he reads at school ; in these are con- 
tained many admonitions, and many tales, and praises, and encomia of 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

and persistent theory of the incidental character of pleasure 
in poetry was inherited by the Romans is clear from passages 
in Lucretius, Horace, and other writers.^ 

It is very difficult to determine just how far Plato departs 
from this accepted theory of the purpose of poetry. The 
moral bias was so great with him that it prevented his recog- 
nizing with satisfactory clearness the view to which his poetic 
sensitiveness would naturally have made him incline. After 
he has declared that art should make men temperate, brave, 
and altogether virtuous,^ he yet feels that all has not been 
said, and he is ready to admit that the excellence of art may be 
gauged by pleasure, provided it is the kind of pleasure that 
may be experienced by 'the one man preeminent in virtue 
and education,'^ for 'the view which identifies the pleasant 
and the just and the good and the noble has an excellent 
moral and religious tendency.'* 

ancient famous men, which he is required to learn by heart, in order 
that he may imitate or emulate them, and desire to become like them.* 
See Isocrates, Panegyricus 95 ; Xenophon, Symposium iii. 5. 

^ Lucretius i. 936 : * But as physicians, when they attempt to give 
bitter wormwood to children, first tinge the rim round the cup with the 
sweet and yellow liquid of honey, that the age of childhood, as yet 
unsuspicious, may find its lips deluded, and may in the meantime drink 
of the bitter juice of the wormwood, and though deceived, may not be 
injured, but rather, being recruited by such a process, may acquire 
strength; so now I, since this argument seems generally too severe and 
forbidding to those by whom it has not been handled, and since the 
multitude shrink back from it, was desirous to set forth my chain of 
reasoning to thee, O Memmius, in sweetly-speaking Pierian verse, and, 
as it were, to tinge it with the honey of the Muses ; if perchance, by 
such a method, I might detain thy attention upon my strains, until thou 
lookest through the whole nature of things, and understandest with what 
shape and beauty it is adorned.* [Watson.] See Horace, Art of Poetry 

333-334 : 

To teach — to please — comprise the poet's views. 

Or else at once to profit and amuse. [Howes.] 

* Laivs ii. 660. * Ibid. 659. 

* Ibid. 663. See Pater, Plato and Platonism c. x, for the theory that 
• art for art's sake * is anticipated by Plato. Pater bases his opinion 
upon this passage : 'Ap' cfbv kjoX iic&aTy tov rtxyav lari tc avfu^pov uXhi 
^ bn fidXiara reMav elvat, ; but see Saintsbury, /fist, of Criticism i. 2. 
17-19, for the opposite view. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

In Aristotle we find the first critic who declares unquali- 
fiedly for the hedonistic theory. Pleasure is, indeed, the end 
of fine art, for the subject of all art is the beautiful, and 
the beautiful is only perfect when enjoyed.* A work of art 
is excellent in proportion as it furnishes its distinctive 
pleasure to the man of good taste,^ and such pleasure, far 
from being vulgar, is noble and refined. Pleasure being the 
end of fine art, the standard of correctness in poetry and 
ethics is therefore not the same; to be sure, the pleasure 
afforded by art must not violate moral feeling,* but this for 
aesthetic, rather than for moral, reasons, since action repre- 
sented in poetry in which the moral values are wanting is not 
correctly delineated, and therefore is not good imitation.* 

Plutarch nowhere says what he considers the end of 
poetry to be, if indeed it ever occurred to him that poetry 
in itself may have an end. However, the opening and 
closing chapters of the essay on poetry are an appeal to 
those having charge of youth so to direct their reading that 
poetry will serve the end of introducing them to philosophy. 
Poetry should be the fitting-school for philosophy, the vesti- 
bule to its temple; it should 'prepare and predispose the 
young man's mind to the teachings of philosophy,' so that, 
'without prejudice, he may advance to the study of philoso- 
phy in a g^racious, friendly, and congenial spirit.'** 

Not all poetry, however, may thus be turned to account, 
for only a limited number of poems have good moral influ- 
ence. Consequently youth must be taught to discriminate 
between those which are helpful and those which are 

Again, lest the youth fail to catch the moral lessons implied 
in the better poetry, the teacher must by example encourage 
him to discover parallelisms between poetry and philosophy, 
as it were wedding the strength of the one to the beauty 
of the other.® 

* See Erdmann, Jfisi, of Philosophy^ for a longer discussion of the 
relation of beauty and pleasure in Aristotle. 

^ Poet, xxvi. I. 7. 'Ibid. xiii. 2. *Ibid. xxv. 19. 

• See pp. 95-96. * See pp. 93-96. 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

But what of pleasure? Plutarch takes it for granted that 
all poetry furnishes pleasure.* Why, then, it may be asked, 
is not pleasure the end of fine art ? It may be that Plutarch 
thinks it is, but, in that case, he considers it an unworthy 
end; wherefore poetry should be turned out of its natural 
channel, and made to serve an artificial end. Pleasure is to 
be regarded as a sauce, as a disguise for making attractive 
doctrines which, stated in philosophical and serious form, 
would fail to interest the young.^ 

This subordination of pleasure is by no means an easy 
matter, and the temptation to read for the sake of pleasure 
alone is great. Consequently, special care must be taken 
lest one yield unduly to the charms of poetry, and accept 
unawares the false views of life which often lie concealed 
beneath its engaging surface.* 

Now, having discussed the differences between poetry and 
prose, the relation of poetry to nature and to truth, and the 
end of poetry, the various conclusions should be brought 
together to afford a synthetic view of Plutarch's theory of the 
art. First, poetry, a gift of rare temperaments, is the intelli- 
gent expression of strong feeling in metrical language; 
secondly, it does not necessarily bear any very close relation 
to truth, and is therefore inferior to philosophy, the supreme 
study ; finally, the element of pleasure must occupy a subor- 
dinate place in our study of poetry, for poetry is to be 
regarded first and foremost as an introduction to philosophy. 

If, in conclusion, we would view this theory of poetry in 
the broader light of Plutarch's work as a whole, we can best 
do so through the comprehensive summary offered by 
Professor Qirist : 'Finally, to sum up the writings and the 
philosophy of our author, Plutarch was one of the most 
accomplished, most amiable, and most prolific writers of 
the period of the empire, who, through his astonishing 
acquaintance with books, offers us invaluable compensation 
for the many and great losses which the Greek literature 
of the classical, as of the Alexandrian, period has suffered. 

^ See §§ i, ii, iii, vii, xiv. ^ See p. 49. ^ See § i, 


Plutarch's Theory of Poetry 

But he was not simply an illustrious connoisseur of classical 
literature and history, for he had also appropriated the spirit 
of genuine humanity and Greek culture, and turned it to 
account in word and deed. In him with broad culture and 
exalted morality were joined extreme moderation in praise 
and censure, simple candor, and an optimistic philosophy, 
which together make the reading of his works as engaging 
as it is elevating. 

*But yet these qualities are not enough to make Plutarch 
a Greek of the age of Pericles. The vulgarity of the times 
and the optimistic tranquillity of his nature suffer in him 
no high aspirations and no burning zeal for independence. 
The narrowness of his ethical creed prevents him from 
appreciating unfettered originality in art and poetry, and his 
conservative traditionalism clouds his vision. Not only 
do we miss logical sequence of thought, but the power 
of creative thought as well, and we can neither praise him 
as a critical historian, nor as an original philosopher, nor, 
finally, as a good grammarian. . . . One ventures to 
call him the classicist of the time of the empire, and yet he 
is far, far from possessing the sincere and unadorned grace 
and the creative originality of the classical period.'^ 

* Handbuch d. k. A, vii. 556. 




The Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek 
Literature is not the anxious admonition of a bigoted eccle- 
siastic, apprehensive for the supremacy of the Sacred Writ- 
ings. Rather, it is the educational theory of a cultured man, 
whose familiarity with classical learning and enthusiasm 
for it were second only to his knowledge of the Scriptures 
and zeal for righteousness. No student of the classics in 
Christian times has been more significantly placed for esti- 
mating justly the peculiar excellencies and defects of the 
Greek learning, and no other scholar has written with a truer 
perspective, and with more sanity, large-mindedness, and 
justice. These qualities in the address can be adequately 
appreciated only after the reader has become acquainted 
with the remarkable life of the author. 

Moreover, the appreciation of the address demands not 
only that its pages be read in the light of the author's 
career, but also that the place of the essay in the develop- 
ment of ecclesiastical philosophy be understood. 

Accordingly the following pages will attempt to give, first 
a survey of the life of Basil, and secondly, a review of the 
varieties of attitude assumed toward classical learning by 
those ecclesiastics who wrote prior to the time of Basil. 

St. Basil was born at Caesarea in the year 329, in a home 
of culture and piety. His father, who came from a family 
which had stood high in military and civic affairs, followed 
the profession of rhetoric, and was a man of wealth and of 
public spirit, noted for his benefactions. His grandmother 
Macrina, and mother St. Emmelia, were to him a Lois and 
a Eunice, and trained him. in the Holy Scriptures from his 
infancy. Thus Basil grew up in an atmosphere of gentle- 
ness, of learning, and of Christian fervor. It is a sufficient 
comment upon this home life that of the ten children four 


The Life of St. Basil 

became saints, St. Macrina, St. Gregory Nyssen, St. Peter, 
and St. Basil ; that three became bishops ; and that St. Basil 
is one of thirteen upon whom the Catholic Church has con- 
ferred the title of Doctor Ecclesiae. 

When a lad, Basil was sent to Byzantium to study under 
Libanius, the celebrated rhetorician and sophist, then at the 
height of his popularity. Under this teacher the youth was 
trained in the felicities of Greek expression, and from him 
derived that love for Greek literature which led him, at the 
age of twenty-one, to seek the refined atmosphere of Athens, 
the centre of learning, and the home of arts and letters. To 
this city resorted the most promising young men of Europe 
and Asia, and there they devoted themselves to the acquisi- 
tion of learning with an intensity which rivaled the most 
flourishing days of the schools at Alexandria. 

Basil was welcomed to Athens by a Cappadocian youth 
who had himself but just arrived, Gregory Nazianzen, and 
the two young men soon became fast friends. They were 
well adapted to each other, for the judicial exactness of 
Basil, and his poise — one might almost say his melancholy — 
were happily complemented by Gregory's intellectual bril- 
liancy, and his liveliness of disposition. Of this friendship 
Gregory wrote as follows : 'It was one soul which had two 
bodies. Eloquence, the most inspiring pursuit in the world, 
incited us to an equal ardor, yet without creating any jeal- 
ousy whatever. We lived in each other. We knew but two 
walks : the first and dearest, that which led to the church 
and its teachers; the other, less exalted, which led to the 
school and its masters.' {Orat, 43.] 

A tl^d young man who shared to some extent in this 
friendship was Julian, the cousin of Constantius II, then a 
scholarly recluse and a Christian, but soon to become 
emperor and an apostate. 

Within a very short time, their attainments in scholarship 
and their remarkable ability as public speakers gave Basil 
and Gregory an enviable reputation, not only in Athens 
itself, but in every other city where learning was fostered. 


The Life of St, Basil 

After five years spent in Athens, and when he was giving 
every promise of an exceptional career, Basil suddenly an- 
nounced his purpose to leave the city ; he had been coming to 
feel that, with all of its learning, Athens laid emphasis upon 
the less essential things, that, as he expressed it, 'life there was 
hollow blessedness/ In this feeling Gregory to some extent 
shared, and accordingly decided to leave with his friend. 
When the day of departure arrived, companions and even 
teachers crowded around and besought them to stay, even 
offering violence ; but although they prevailed for the time 
upon the more yielding Gregory, Basil was resolute, and 
retired to Caesarea. 

For a short period he practiced law in his native city, 
yet, despite his brilliant debut, his heart was not in his work, 
and he decided to escape from business cares and renounce 
the world. Accordingly, that he might determine what kind 
of retirement would prove most agreeable, 'he traveled over 
much sea and land,'^ and visited the hermits in Egypt, Syria, 
and Asia Minor. On his return he sought out a wild and 
beautiful retreat in Pontus, where, surrounded by lofty 
crags, a mountain stream tossing and leaping near by, and 
a lovely plain spread out beneath, he erected a monastery, 
and established a brotherhood. This was in 358. 

For four years he led here a serene and joyous life, devoted 
to prayer and psalmody, the study of the inspired writers, 
and peaceful labor. In the course of time he experienced 
the pleasure of a visit from his beloved friend, and years 
later Gregory drew a charming picture of those happy days, 
in which he recalled with equal pleasure the songs of praise 
in the rustic chapel, and the little plane-tree which he had 
planted with his own hands.^ 

Occasionally Basil left his retreat to preach to the country 
people, or to perform deeds of mercy, as when, for example, 
in the course of a famine he sold his lands to provide bread 
for the starving inhabitants of the province. It was charac- 
teristic of the man that Jews, pagans, and Christians were 
treated with equal consideration. 

1 Epistle 204. * Epistle 6. 


The Life of St. Basil 

But this attractive life was not allowed to be permanent, 
for Basil was summoned to Constantinople to aid the bishop 
of Ancyrus in his struggle with Eunomius, the new and 
forceful exponent of the Arian heresy. Henceforth he was 
never long absent from public life. 

In 362 occurred an event which occasioned bitter enmity 
between Basil and Gregory and their college friend Julian, 
and threatened g^reat injury to the cause of the church. 
Julian, then emperor, had invited Basil to Rome, and he 
was preparing to embark, when word was received that upon 
the standards of the army the cross of Christ had been 
replaced by the images of the gods. Basil correctly inter- 
preted this as indicative of apostasy, and refused to have 
any further intercourse with the Emperor. Julian was 
greatly angered, and in retaliation decreed that the study of 
the classics should be denied to Christians. These were his 
haughty and ironical words : *For us are the eloquence and 
the arts of the Greeks, and the worship of the gods; for 
you, ignorance and rusticity, and nothing else, I fear; so, 
your wisdom.'^ This was indeed bitter revenge, for the 
Church had found her hold upon classical learning the most 
effective weapon against the pagans. The indignation of 
Gregory gives some idea of the consternation which this 
decree occasioned, and of the value which he and his friend 
placed upon classical learning : *I forego all the rest, riches, 
birth, honor, authority, and all goods here below of which 
the charm vanishes like a dream ; but I cling to oratory, nor 
do I regret the toil, nor the journeys by land and sea, which 
I have undertaken to master it.'^ 

This announcement promised to be but the beginning of 
a series of persecutions, but death providentially cut short 
the career of Julian in 363. 

In the following year Basil was ordained priest by Euse- 
bius, bishop of Caesarea, but the fame which his sermons 
upon the death of Julian secured for the young priest aroused 

^ Villemain, V]^loquence Chr/Henne au Quatrihtne Sihcle io6. 
* Migne, Pair, Graec, xxxv, 636. 


The Life of St. Basil 

the jealousy of the bishop, and Basil retired to Pontus. 
However, by his modest conduct he succeeded in regaining 
the friendship of Eusebius, and after three years was recalled 
to help check the Arian heresy. His learning, his ability 
as an orator, and his fearless but gentle conduct, all fitted 
him for such a task. 

In 370, despite much bitter opposition, not simply on the 
part of strangers, but from his own uncle as well, Basil 
was raised to the episcopate of Caesarea. The task which 
devolved upon him as bishop was to cultivate a spirit of har- 
mony and of whole-hearted service among his clergy, and, 
both in his own province and indirectly in the neighboring 
provinces, to cherish the orthodox faith as outlined in the 
Nicene creed. 

In many respects this was the most trying period in the 
history of the early Church. Christians were no longer 
called upon to be martyrs, as had been the case a century 
before, but the wealth and prestige to which the Church had 
attained was impairing that simplicity which had made the 
Church of the first centuries so effective. As a result, many 
selfish and ambitious men were attracted to ecclesiastical 
service, and it was more difficult for even an unselfish 
man to lead a godly life. Moreover, the Church was divided 
into many warring factions, such as the Arians, the Semi- 
Arians, and the Sabellians, the Arians being especially deter- 
mined and overbearing, because they had gained the sup- 
port of the emperor Valens. It is to the glory of Basil that 
at such a time he stood for the Apostolic ideals. 

Immediately upon the assumption of his new office Basil 
set about gaining the good will and allegiance of those of the 
clergy who had opposed his election. This work was pro- 
gressing with reasonable expedition, when suddenly he was 
confronted by the emperor himself and commanded to 
renoimce the orthodox faith. This Basil flatly refused to 
do, and the cowardly Valens was awed into admiration. 
Henceforth Basil had nothing to fear from imperial inter- 
vention, and yet, because most of the other bishops of the 


The Life of St. Basil 

East had complied with the emperor's demands, the task of 
supporting the true faith was rendered correspondingly 
more difficult. The Arians opposed him at every turn, and, 
what was harder to bear, the Sabellians misinterpreted his 
motives in trying to win back the Semi-Arians to the true 
faith by mildness and sympathy, and accused him of heresy. 
Even some of those who professed the orthodox belief, and 
who should have supported him in his heroic efforts to 
preserve the integrity of the faith, misunderstood him, and, 
most distressing of all, his lifelong friend Gregory accused 
him of attempting to turn their friendship to selfish ends. 
Lastly, even the Pope and the bishops of the West turned a 
deaf ear to his appeals for help. Is it any wonder that a 
body already weakened by asceticism and wasted by disease 
gave way in this unequal struggle? 

Basil did not live to behold the triumph of the Catholic 
faith. He saw but the dark hour before the dawn. And 
yet he was victorious, victorious because he kept the rank 
and file of the Church in Cappadocia true to the faith of the 
fathers. The simple folk who hungered and thirsted after 
righteousness loved and followed him, attracted by his aus- 
tere living, the sweetness and integrity of his character, his 
singleness of purpose, and his high thoughts. Small wonder 
that this was so, for even when oppressed with the duties 
of his high office and broken in body, he frequently stole 
away to be with these simple people, to comfort them in their 
afflictions, and to teach them, in sermons which delight us 
to-day equally by their Hebraic fervor and their classical 
form and idiom, to behold God in his handiwork. Listen 
as he points out to them the glory of the heavens : 'There 
is our ancient native seat, from which the murderous demon 
has cast us down. If things created for time are so grand, 
what will be the things of eternity? If things visible are 
so beautiful, what will be the invisible? If the immensity 
of the skies surpasses the measure of hiunan thought, what 
intelligence can fathom the depths of eternity ? If this eye 
of nature, which so adorns it, this sun, which, though perish- 



The Address to Young Men 

able, is yet so beautiful, so rapid in movement, so well 
adapted in size to the world, offers us an inexhaustible theme 
for contemplation, what will be the beauty of the sun of 
divine righteousness?'^ 

Or again : 'If the ocean is beautiful and worthy of praise 
to God, how much more beautiful is the conduct of this 
Christian assembly, where the voices of men, women, and 
children, blended and sonorous like the waves that break 
upon the beach, rise amidst our prayers to the very presence 
of God !'2 

Basil's death occurred on January ist,^Q, when he was ^/ 
but fifty years of age. Like many another valiant soldier 
of the Cross, he died with these words upon his lips : 'Into 
thy hands I commend my spirit.' The scene at his funeral 
was an impressive one. The entire province was given 
over to g^ief, and pagans and Jews imited with Christians 
in their lamentations. As the funeral procession advanced, 
many perished in their desire to approach the coffin, but 
they were accounted happy to die on such a day, and the 
people called them the funeral victims. 

So lived and died this scholar and man of God. 

Let us now turn from the life of St. Basil to a brief con- 
sideration of the Address to Young Men in relation to the 
attitude assumed by earlier ecclesiastics toward Greek learn- 

If we condense the thought of the essay into the fewest 
words, the result is something as follows: While classi- 
cal philosophy, oratory, and poetry even at their best do 
not reveal the truth with absolute accuracy, they yet reflect 
it as in a mirror; the truth may be seen face to face only 
in the Scriptures, yet it is possible in the pagan writings to 
trace, as it were, its silhouette. Accordingly, for those who 
are not yet prepared for the strong meat of the Scriptures, 
the study of Greek literature is a valuable preparatory course. 

This is virtually the attitude t^en toward classical leam- 

^Migne, Fair. Graec, 29. 118-119. * Ibid. 29. 94. 


The Address to Young Men 

ing by several of the early Church writers, and, there- 
fore a survey of so much of the ecclesiastical philosophy as 
concerns Greek poetry and philosophy will help to establish 
the antecedents of Basil's essay. 

It was inevitable that, when Christianity came in contact 
with the speculative genius of the Greeks and the Oriental 
pantheistic naturalism, there should be an effort to advance 
from Christian faith to Christian knowledge, and to discover 
a philosophic basis for the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. 
This first effort was made by the so-called Gnostics, who 
exerted their greatest influence in the middle of the second 
century. The Hellenic Gnostics attempted to employ the 
writings of the Greek philosophers to explain the Scriptures, 
but the many perplexing questions which they strove to 
answer soon led them as far away from the doctrines of 
Plato as from those of Paul. Beginning with the attempt 
to discover the allegorical significance of the Scriptures, 
Gnosticism ended in mere chimerical speculation, in mysti- 
cism, mythology, and theosophy. It exerted little perma- 
nent influence, and by the time of Basil was no longer a force 
in religious controversy. 

Contemporaneously with the flourishing of Gnosticism, 
however, wrote Justin Martyr, who influenced very much the 
ecclesiastical writers of the East during the third and fourth 
centuries. As a young man Justin made a thorough study 
of the Greek philosophy, being especially attracted to the 
writings of Plato and of the Stoics, but as he grew older his 
admiration for the fortitude of the Christians, and for their 
sublime faith — ^an admiration which was intensified by his 
growing distrust in the sovereignty of human reason — ^led 
him to embrace Christianity. Henceforth he was the cham- 
pion of the new religion. This, however, was not at the 
expense of Greek philosophy, for his breadth of view enabled 
him to recognize the worth both of the profane and of the 
Sacred Writings. 

Justin bases his philosophy upon the Logos of John's 
Gospel. Wherever truth is found, it is an expression of the 


The Address to Young Men 

divine Logos ; Plato, Homer, Pythagoras, and Solon received 
partial revelations of it, and indeed it reveals itself some- 
what to every man, though the one perfect and complete 
revelation is Christ, who is the Logos incarnate. 

For our present purpose we need observe in detail only 
that phase of Justin's philosophy which is concerned with 
classical literature. Greek philosophy and poetry are to 
be esteemed highly, because, to an unusual degree, they 
express the divine revelation. Not only did such men as 
Homer and Plato experience revelations of the truth, but 
they were also familiar with the teachings of Moses, and 
indeed with all of the Old Testament. Such doctrines in 
Plato as eternal punishment, the immortality of the soul, 
and the freedom of the will, were borrowed from the early 
Jewish books.^ 

Of the other four prominent apologists of the second 
century, Tatian, Hermas, and Theophilus condemn and ridi- 
cule Greek philosophy, and Athenagoras assumes an atti- 
tude similar to that of Justin. Tatian, who was an Assy- 
rian, abused all things Greek with barbaric severity,^ 
Hermas wrote an Abuse of the Pagan Philosophers, and 
Theophilus called the doctrines of the Greek philosophers 
foolishness.* Athenagoras, on the other hand, esteemed the 
Greek philosophers, and quoted them in support of the unity 
of God, a truth which he believed the Spirit had revealed 
to them despite the prevailing pol)rtheism of their country.* 

The closing years of the second century and the first half 
of the third were engrossed in the controversy which the 
Gnostics had aroused. Anti-Gnosticism found its most 
spirited champion in TertuUian, the foremost Latin ecclesi- 
astical writer of the early centuries. TertuUian believed that 
Christianity alone possessed the truth, that philosophy was 
the source of all heresies, and that Plato and other Greek 
philosophers, though they had stolen certain isolated truths 

^ See Apology i. 44 ; Cohortatio ad Graecos 14. 

^ See Oratio ad Graecos 2. * See Ad Autolyeus i. ii. iii. 

* See Supplicatio v. 


The Address to Young Men 

from Moses, which they arrogated to themselves, were 
exponents of falsehood. So extreme was his antipathy to 
philosophy that he eventually declared: Credo quia absur- 
dutn est. 

On the other hand Clement of Alexandria and his pupil, 
Origen, the founder of the school to which Basil, Gregory 
Nyssen, and Gregory Nazianzen adhered, endeavored to 
separate the true from the false in Gnosticism. Both of 
them laid much stress upon the value of Greek philosophy. 

Ueberweg g^ves the following comprehensive digest of 
Clement's views concerning the relation of the pagan writ- 
ings to the Scriptures : 'Clement adopts the view of Justin, 
that to Christianity, as the whole truth, the conceptions of 
ante-Christian times are opposed, not as mere errors, but as 
partial truths. The divine Logos, which is everywhere 
poured out, like the light of the sun (Stromata v. 3), enlight- 
ened the souls of men from the beginning. It instructed the 
Jews through Moses and the prophets (Paedagogus i. 7). 
Among the Greeks, on the contrary, it called forth wise men, 
and gave them, through the mediation of the lower angels, 
whom the Logos had appointed to be shepherds of the 
nations (Strom, vii. 2), philosophy as a guide to righteous- 
ness (Strom, i. S; vi. 5). Like Justin, Clement maintains 
that the philosophers took much of their doctrine secretly 
from the Orientals, and, in particular, from the religious 
books of the Jews, which doctrine they then, from desire of 
renown, falsely proclaimed as the result of their own inde- 
pendent investigations, besides falsifying and corrupting it 
(Strom, i. i. 17; Paed. ii. i). Yet some things pertaining 
to true doctrine were really discovered by the Greek philoso- 
phers, by the aid of the seed of the divine Logos implanted 
in them (Cohortatio vi. 59). Plato was the best of the 
Greek philosophers (6 wavra clpurros nXaraiv, .... olov 
0€o^povficvo$^ Paed. iii. 11; Strom, v. 8). The Chris- 
tian must choose out that which is true in the writings of 
the different philosophers, i. e., whatever agrees with Chris- 
tianity (Strom, i. 7; vi. 17). We need the aid of philoso- 


The Address to Young Men 

phy in order to advance from faith {vums) to knowledge 
(yiwis). The Gnostic is to him who merely believes 
without knowing as the grown-up man to the child ; having 
outgrown the fear of the Old Testament, he has arrived at 
a higher stage of the divine plan of man's education. Who- 
ever will attain to Gnosis without philosophy, dialectic, and 
the study of nature, is like him who expects to gather grapes 
without cultivating the grapevine (Strom, i. 9). But the 
criterion of true science must always be the harmony of the 
latter with faith (Strom, ii. 4)/^ 

Of Origen, who was the last ecclesiastical philosopher of 
influence in the Eastern church prior to the fourth century, 
it is enough to say that he assumed the same attitude toward 
the Greek writers as did his master. 

One who has read Basil's essay will readily appreciate the 
similarity between the views of Basil and those of Justin, 
Athenagoras, Qement, and Origen. The chapters in the 
essay might almost be arranged as expositions of the various 
elements in the above digest from Qement's writings. 
There is the same belief in the partial inspiration of the 
Greek poets and philosophers, the same advocacy of the 
study of Hellenic literature as an introduction to the study 
of Christianity, the common credence in the indebtedness 
of Plato and other philosophers to Moses and the Prophets, 
and the like insistence upon life as a growth, and upon 
knowledge as the complement of faith. 

To summarize this brief review : For at least two centuries 
before Basil wrote his Address to Young Men on the Right 
Use of Greek Literature efforts had been made to determine 
the true relation between Greek learning and Christianity. 
Some writers bitterly opposed Hellenic philosophy and 
poetry, others recognized that it contained a partial revela- 
tion of the truth. To the latter view Justin and his follow- 
ers inclined, and among these followers one of the most 
pronounced is BasU. 

* J/ist, of Philosophy i. 314. 





I. General introduction. Poetry renders philosophy 
attractive to young men ; therefore, even though it embraces 
things bad as well as good, it is to be studied, and the youth 
is to exercise his judgment in discriminating between true 
and false ideas. 

II. Introductory principle. Poets deceive, sometimes 
wittingly, sometimes unwittingly; wittingly, by the use of 
invented plots, dramatic devices, and characters who live or 
speak untruthfully; unwittingly, by giving expression to 
erroneous, though sincere, ideas. 

III. Again, poetry is an imitative art, and the imitation 
is good or bad according as the object is faithfully or 
unfaithfully reproduced. 

IV. The young man is to observe whether the poet 
indicates his own attitude toward the words and acts of 
his characters; the poet may do this by embodying his own 
explanations in the context, or he may make his characters 
pass judgment upon one another, or he may teach his lessons 
by the fate which attends his characters. Further, dis- 
gusting speeches which for any reason are not refuted in the 
context may be canceled by contradictory sentiments from 
the same author ; if this cannot be done, then by contradic- 
tory sentiments from other authors. 

V. The youth is to study the phrasing in order to get 
the exact meaning of a passage. 

VI. He is to study a word which admits of more than 
one interpretation, as a/>«77> cvStu/Aovca, in order to discover 
in just what sense it is used. 

VII. Certain principles from Aristotle. The effective- 
ness of poetry as an imitative art lies in probability, and in 
likeness to reality. Consequently, to secure variety and 


How to Study Poetry 

complication, reversals of fortune are employed, and these 
necessitate characters capable of error. 

VIII. Therefore the youth must not accept unchallenged 
the words of a character, nor put his stamp of approval on 
all, but must boldly and confidently distinguish between the 
good and bad acts of a man. 

IX. It is most important to inquire the poet's reason for 
every utterance ; if this is not done, the young man will be 
victimized by absurd and vicious declarations. 

X. He should not overlook the half-hidden excellencies 
in a poem, such as the difference between the actions of a 
gentleman and of a boor in similar situations, or between the 
conduct of Greeks and of barbarians. 

XI. While one reads poetry to cull the flowers of his- 
tory, and another to enjoy the beauty of the diction, the lover 
of honor and virtue should read it to dwell upon examples of 
manliness, temperance, and justice. 

XII. Passages which look very suspicious from one 
point of view, may contain good lessons if viewed from 
another; but if they allow of no good interpretation, 
what hinders us from so altering the thought that it may 
conform to our ideas ? 

XIII. Generalizations are not to be confined to the one 
specific thing to which they are at first applied by the poet, 
but should be transferred to other things of a like character ; 
this will help young men to become familiar with truth, 
and so teach them self-control and generosity. 

XIV. The refined and helpful sentiments found in 
poetry should be strengthened by comparison with the teach- 
ings of philosophy. Indeed, if we wed poetry to philosophy 
we rob it of its fictitious element and lend it seriousness. 

Conclusion. Young men need to be guided in their read- 
ing, in order that their study of poetry may serve as the 
natural and pleasing introduction to philosophy. 



Whether or not, Marcus Sedatus, the saying of Philoxe- 
nus^ the poet be true, that the most savory meat and fish 
are those which are not meat and fish at all, we would 
leave to the judgment of those to whom Cato said that 
their palates were more sensitive than their hearts. But a 
statement that strikes me as admitting of no controversy is, 
that very young men enjoy the most those philosophical 
precepts which are not delivered in philosophical and seri- 
ous form, and that such they accept and adopt. For not 
only the fables of Aesop and the fictions of poets, but 
the Abaris of Heraclides^ and Ariston's* Lyco, and, if 
they are embodied in fiction, the doctrines relating to the 
soul, are read with keen zest from cover to cover. Where- 
fore not only are they to observe due moderation in the 
pleasures of eating and drinking, but still further in their 
hearing and reading must they become accustomed to 
indulge in pleasure merely as a relish,* and to seek for the 
useful and the wholesome. For barred gates do not secure 
a city if a single entrance is open to the enemy, nor does 
continence in the pleasures of the other senses save a youth 
if he unwittingly betrays himself through the ear. And the 

" Dithjnrambic poet (435-380 B.C.) of C3rthera. TAe Banquet, frag- 
ments of which survive, gives an account of the luxury of the Sicilian 

•Learned author, born probably 378 B.C., who studied under Plato 
and Aristotle, accepted the Pythagorean philosophy, and wrote on 
philosophy, natural science, mathematics, music, grammar, history and 
poetry. ' 

''Stoic philosopher, about 275 B.C., who taught at Athens. Ariston 
maintained that the chief good consists in indifference to everything 
except virtue and vice. 

^ See Introduction, pp. 29-31 and notes. 


How to Study Poetry 

better his grasp of the products of thought and reason, the 
more, if care be not taken, is he injured and corrupted.^ 

Since now it is not possible, nor perhaps desirable, to 
prevent young men of the size of my Soclarus and your 
Cleandrus from reading the poets, let us keep a very careful 
watch over them, as they have more need of guidance in 
their reading than in their walks. Accordingly it occurred 
to me to send you in writing the discourse concerning 
poetry which I had occasion to deliver recently. Please run 
through it yourself ; and if you find it worth at least as much 
as the so-called amethyst-plant, which some men wear in 
their drinking-bouts as a charm against drunkenness, then 
hand it to Cleandrus, and thus charm him betimes, making 
sure of his tastes and affections ; they will prove the more 
tractable to such an appeal, since the boy is no dunce, but 
thoroughly observant and quick to learn. 

'In the head of the polypus dwell both good and ill ;'^ the 
plant is very good to eat, but, they say, disturbs one's sleep 
with confused and unnatural dreams. Likewise in poetry 
there is much good and nutritious food for a young man's 
mind, which becomes no less a source of confusion and dis- 
traction to him if his study of poetry is not guided aright. 
For of poetry as of Egypt it may be said, that, for those 
using its products, it yields 'herbs in greatest plenty, many 
that are healing in the cup and many baneful.'^ 'Therein 
are love, and desire, and loving enticement, that steals the 
wits even of the wise.'* Indeed the charms of poetry do 
not appeal to those who are altogether stupid and void of 
understanding. Wherefore to one who asked Simonides,** 

* See Plutarch, Symposiacs vii. 5 ; That we Ought to Preserve Ourselves 
from Pleasure arising from Bad Music ; where, though at greater length, 
the same ideas are expressed and even the same illustrations are 
employed. Schlemm, 8-13, argues that Plutarch is here influenced by 
the ideas of the Peripatetics, and quotes at length from Aristotle. See 
Plato, Repub, iii. 387. ' See Plutarch, Symposiacs viii. 10. i. 

® Odys, iv. 230. *//. xiv. 216. 

* One of the great lyric poets (556? — 46S? B.C.); noted for the ten- 
derness and sympathy of his poems. * His sunny temper and his easy 
philosophy of life made him welcome wherever his vocation called him.* 


How to Study Poetry 

why, of all men, the Thessalians were the only ones whom 
he could not deceive, he replied that they were too stupid 
to be cajoled by him. Likewise Gorgias^ called tragedy a 
deception, wherein he who deceived was more just than he 
who did not deceive, and he who was deceived was wiser 
than he who was not deceived. Shall we then stop the ears 
of our young men with a hard and impenetrable wax, as 
the ears of the Ithacans^ were stopped, and compel them, 
as it were, to add the Epicurean sail, and to flee past poetry 
under full sail and with all oars out? Rather, shall we not 
bind them in subjection to right reason, and guide and 
guard their judgments, lest pleasure turn them aside to 
their hurt ! 'Nay moreover even Drya's son, mighty Lykur- 
gos'* did not show good judgment when he went about cut- 
ting down the vineyards because many were g^ven to drunk- 
enness and rioting ; instead, he should have seen that wells 
were nearer at hand to act as a corrective, so that, as Plato 
puts it,* the drunken god would be held in check by the sober 
one. For water mixed with wine does not affect its useful- 
ness, and removes what is hurtful. Accordingly, we should 
not cut down nor utterly destroy the muse's vine, poetry, 
but where fiction and drama, bold and presumptuous from 
ungovemed delight in popular applause, luxuriate and grow 
wild, we must lay hold of them to prune and restrain them, 
and where poetry affects one by its poetic grace, and its 
sweetness and attractiveness are not fruitless and barren, 
there let us introduce philosophy to be mingled with it. 

For as when the mandrake grows beside the vineyard it 
imparts its influence to the wine, and makes the sleep of 
those who drink it more refreshing, so when poetry tempers 

' Rhetorician and sophist, contemporary of Socrates ; he inaugurated 
an elaborate and artificial style, which was much imitated. 

' Odys. xii. 37-101. See p. 104. •//. vi. 130. 

* Laws vi. 773 : * For there is a difficulty in perceiving that the city 
ought to be well mingled like a cup, in which the raging draught over- 
flows and spills, but when chastened by another god not drunk with 
wine, receives a fair admixture and becomes an excellent and temper- 
ate drink.' 


How to Study Poetry 

its fictitious creations with the principles of philosophy, it 
makes study easy and attractive to young men. Wherefore 
poetry is not to be scrupulously avoided by those who intend 
to be philosophers, but they are to make poetry a fitting- 
school for philosophy, by forming the habit of seeking and 
gaining the profitable in the pleasant, and of utterly resist- 
ing and spuming that poetry in which they find no profit.^ 
For this discrimination is the beginning of education, and, 
according to Sophocles, 'If an undertaking begins well, the 
chances are it will end well.'^ 



In introducing the young to the study of poetry, one 
should take care that nothing is more thoroughly understood 
and kept in mind than that the bards often falsify, sometimes 
intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally. This they do 
intentionally, since they think that the severity of truth is 
less adapted to that pleasing grace of expression which cap- 
tivates most people than is fiction. In actual life events do 
not change, however unpleasing the outcome, but fiction 
steps aside and turns with the greatest ease from that which 
distresses to that which gives pleasure. For neither metre, 
nor tropes, nor harmony of construction is so winsome and 
engaging as a well-woven fabric of fiction.* Just as color in 

> See § 14. 

•See Nauck, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta 246. Compare the 
last two paragraphs with the similar passage in Plutarch's essay Of 
Moral Virtue 12, 

• See Aristotle, Poet, vi. 9-1 1 : * But most important of all is the struc- 
ture of the incidents. For tragedy is an imitation, not of men, but of 
an action and of life, — of happiness and misery ; and happiness and 
misery consist in action, the end of human life being a mode of action, 
not a quality. Now the characters of men determine their qualities, but 
it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse. Dramatic 
action, therefore, is not with a view to the representation of character. 
Character comes in as subsidiary to the action. Hence the incidents 
and the plot are the end of a tragedy ; and the end is the chief thing of 
all. Again, without action there cannot be a tragedy ; there may be 
without character.* iv» 14 : * The Plot, then, is the first principle, and, as 
it were, the soul of the tragedy.* viii. 4 : *As therefore, in the other imita 


How to Study Poetry 

a painting is more effective than line, because more lifelike 
and illusive/ so in poetry a probable fiction* is more impres- 
sive and acceptable than the fixed truth, which is without 
plot, and simple in metre and diction.* Wherefore, when, 
at the instigation of certain dreams, Socrates undertook to 
write poetry, of which the fictitious is an essential element, 
because he was unable to fabricate plausible and clever fic- 
tions, having been the champion of truth all his life, he 
undertook to turn into verse the fables of Aesop. And 
though we have known of sacrifices without pipes and I 
dances, we have never known of a poem without plot and \ 
fiction. Thus the verses of Empedocles* and Parmenides,* » 
Nicander's* verses on antidotes to poisons, and the maxims 

tive arts, the imitation is one, when the object imitated is one, so the 
plot, being an imitation of an action, must imitate one action and that a 
whole, the structural union of the parts being such that if any one of 
them is displaced or removed, the whole will be disjointed and dis- 

' Ibid. vi. i : * The most beautiful colors, laid on confusedly, will not 
giire as much pleasure as the chalk outline of a portrait.' 

• Ibid. Vtts 4 : * The universal tells us how a person of given character 
will on occasion speak or act, according to the law of probability or 

' Ibid. vi. 7 : * Every tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which 
parts determine its quality — namely. Plot, Character, Diction, Thought, 
Scenery, Song.' See also Introd., pp. 24-25. 

^Empedocles (about 450 B.C.), who acquired great fame and influence 
by his talents and varied attainments in science, maintained that the 
world is developed from, or compounded of, four primary elements, 
fire, earth, air, and water, and that there are two forces, love and hate 
(attraction and repulsion). Of his poem on Nature ^ important frag- 
ments are extant. According to the custom of the time it was written 
in dactylic hexameters. See Poet, i. 8. 

*The most notable of the philosophers of the Eleatic School (b. 
about 519 B.C.). * His work on Nature was divided into three parts : 
(i) an introduction, describing in highly figurative language the manner 
in which the philosopher reached the citadel of truth ; (2) a treatise on 
Truth ; and (3) a treatise on Opinion.' 

• Didactic poet of the second century B.C. The poem here mentioned, 
the Theriaca^ is extant. * The author has sought to enliven the ungrate- 
ful theme by digressions and descriptions.' 


How to Study Poetry 

of Theognis,^ borrowed the poetic form and dignity only 
as a sort of riding-carriage, to avoid footing it. 

Once more, when anything absurd or distressing about the 
gods, or departed souls, or virtue, is expressed in the poetry 
of a famous and illustrious man, he who takes such state- 
ment for the truth is misled and corrupted by error,^ but he 
who always remembers and keeps clearly in mind the decep- 
tive juggling of poetry, and is able to say to it at every 
turn, * "O cunning device, more wily than the lynx,"* why, 
when jesting, dost thou knit thy brows, and why, when 
deceiving, dost thou pretend to teach?' such a one, I say, 
will not suffer harm nor be misled in his belief. Rather he 
will check his fears lest Poseidon rip open the earth and lay 
bare the infernal regions,* and he will restrain his anger 
against Apollo for killing the chief of the Achaeans, when 
he reads that, 'The man who sang his praises at the banquet 
and uttered these words, was the very one who slew him.'*^ 
Likewise he will repress his tears for Achilles and Agamem- 
non in Hades,® as they stretch forth impotent and feeble 
hands in supplication for life. And if at any time he is dis- 
turbed by sufferings, and the enchantment of poetry is 
prevailing against him, he will not hesitate to say to himself, 
as Homer very aptly said in his Necyia — considering how 
attentive women are to fiction — ^'But haste with all thine 
heart toward the sunlight, and mark all this, that even here- 
after thou mayst tell it to thy wife.'^ Such are the things 
that the poets purposely invent. 

But there are other conceptions not feigned at all, but to 
which, since they themselves entertain and believe them, the 
poets impart a false color, as when Homer says of Zeus, 
that he 'set therein two lots of dreary death, one of Achilles, 

' Elegiac poet of the sixth century B.C. * In the verses that have been 
preserved under his name, i^sSq in number, we have the creed of a 
Doric oligarch set forth for the instruction of a young favorite who 
belonged to the same order.' 

* See Plato, Rep, ii-iii, where this idea is developd at length. 
•Nauck 694. *//. XX. 57 ff. 'Nauck 694. 

* Odys, xi. 3S4 flf. ' Odys, xi. 222. 


How to Study Poetry 

one of horse-taming Hector, and held them by the midst 
and poised. Then Hector's fated day sank down, and fell 
to the house of Hades, and Phoebus Apollo left him.'^ 
Aeschylus has made a whole tragedy, called Psychostasia, 
out of this legend, in which he introduces Thetis and Eos 
standing on either side of the balance of Zeus, soliciting 
favor for their contending sons. Now of course every one 
sees that this is a plot invented by the poet, and designed to 
cause the hearer pleasurable fear. But this passage on the 
other hand, *Zeus, that is men's dispenser of battle ;'^ and this 
other, *When 'tis God's will to bring an utter doom upon a 
house, he first in mortal men implants what works it out ;'* 
express the judgments and convictions of those who thus 
discover and betray to us how deceived and ignorant they 
are concerning the gods. 

Again when, in necromancy, conjurations by gruesome 
names are employed to call up spectres, visions of burning 
rivers, savage wastes, and terrible tortures, very few fail to 
perceive that there is here a copious mixture of the fabulous 
and false, as of poison with food.* Neither Homer nor Pin- 
dar nor Sophocles believed that he was telling the truth 
in such passages as 'Thence the sluggish streams of murky 

*//. xxii. 210. See Plato, J^ep. ii. 379 : *Then we must not listen to 
Homer or any other poet who is guilty of the folly of saying that : 
*' At the threshold of Zeus lie two cakes full of lots, one of good, 

the other of evil ;" 
And that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two^ 

** Sometimes meets with good, at other times with evil fortune;' 
But that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill — 

** Him wild hunger drives over the divine earth." 
And again — 

**Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us.' 
« //. 4. 84. 

* Nauck 39. The translation is after Plumptre. 

* See Plato, Rep.\\i. 386-387: * Well, I said, and if they are to be cour- 
ageous, must they not learn, besides these, other lessons also, such as 
will have the effect of taking away the fear of death ? . . . I said, we 
shall have to obliterate obnoxious passages, beginning with the verse, — 
*' I would rather be a serf on the land of a poor portionless man who is 



>) ) 

How to Study Poetry 

might disgorge the endless darkness ;'^ 'Past the streams of 
Oceanus and the White Rock . . . they sped;'^ The nar- 
row straits of Hades and the ebbing of the deeps.'^ 

On the other hand, whenever the poets deplore death as 
pitiable, or the want of burial as terrible, and utter in trem- 
bling tones such sentiments as the following : 'Leave me not 
unwept and imburied as thou goest hence;'* and 'His soul, 
fleeting from his limbs, went down to the house of Hades, 
wailing its own doom, leaving manhood and youth;'** and 
'Cut me not oflf untimely, for sweet it is to see the light; 
force me not to see the realms below;'* they express the 
convictions of men who have suffered because they have 

not well to do, than rule over all the dead who have come to 

naught."— (OdfvJ. xi. 489.) 
We must also expunge the verse — 
" He feared lest the mansions grim and squalid which the gods abhor 
should be seen both by mortals and immortals." — (//. xx. 64.) 
Or again — 
'* O heavens ! is there in the house of Hades soul and ghostly form but 
no mind?" — (//. xxiii. 103.) 
Again — 
*' To him (Teiresias) alone had the gods given wisdom ; the other souls 
do but flit as shadows." — (Odys, x. 495.) 
Again — 
"The soul flying from the limbs had gone to Hades, lamenting her 
fate, leaving strength and youth." — (//. xvi. 856.) 
Again — 
"And the soul, with shrilling cry, passed like smoke beneath the 
earth." — (//. xxiii. 100.) 
** As bats in hollow of mystic cavern, whenever any of them dropping 
out of the string falls from the rock, fly shrilling and hold to one 
another, so did they with shrilling cry hold together as they 
moved." — (Odys, xxiv. 6.) 

* Also we shall have to reject all the terrible and appalling names 
which describe the world below — Cocytus and Styx, ghosts under the 
earth, and sapless shades, and any other words of the same type, the 
very mention of which causes a shudder to pass through the inmost 
soul of him who hears them.' 

* Bergk, Poetae Lyrici i. 426. ' Odys, xxiv. 11. 
' Nauck 246. * Odys, xi. 72. 

*//. xvi. 856. •Euripides, Iph, AuL 1218. 


How to Study Poetry 

been prepossessed and deceived by error, and such ideas 
cling to us and distress us the more because we are filled to 
the full with the same impotent passion which gave them 

Now we may fortify ourselves against such ideas by bear- 
ing in mind from the very first that poetry is not much 
concerned about the truth; indeed, what the truth is in 
regard to these matters, even those men who give their undi- 
vided attention to the search for truth confess that they find 
it very hard to determine. Therefore let us have these 
words of Empedocles at hand, 'So eye hath not seen, nor ear 
heard, nor the mind of man comprehended these things;'^ 
and these of Xenophanes,^ *No man ever lived, nor ever 
shall, who knows the truth about the gods and a thousand 
other things;'^ and especially let us remember the passage 
from Plato in which Socrates denies knowledge of these 
things.* For when young men see that these matters make 
the heads of philosophers swim, they will pay less heed to 
the poets.* 

^ Mullach, Fr, Phil. Graec, i. 2. 

^ Founder of the Eleatic School of philosophy ; flourished in the 
second half of the sixth century B.C. ' His epic poems have for their 
themes, The Founding of Colophon^ and The Colonization of Elea, but 
his reputation rested on his didactic poem, On Nature^ and on his 
satires, in which he attacked the doctrines of other philosophers and 
poets. He was a zealous upholder of monotheism.* 

' Mullach i. 103. 

^Phaedo 69 : * In the number of whom (the philosophers) I have been 
seeking, according to my ability, to find a place during my whole life , 
whether I have sought in a right way or not, and whether I have suc- 
ceeded or not, I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I 
myself arrive in the other world : that is my belief.* 

' See Introd. pp. 24-28, for discussion of this section. 

57 .•'-■'--• 

.» ' rf w _ tf 


How to Study Poetry 


We shall still more thoroughly ground the young man, if, 
on introducing him to poetry, we explain to him that it is an 
imitative art and agent,^ analogous to painting. Not only 
must he be made acquainted with the common saying that 
poetry is vocal painting, and painting, silent poetry,^ but we 
must also teach him that when we see a painting of a lizard, 
an ape, or the face of Thersites, our pleasure and surprise 
are occs^sioned, not by the beauty of the object, but by the 
likeness of the painting to it. For it is naturally impossible 
for the ugly to be beautiful, but it is the imitation which is 
praised, if it reproduce to the life either an ugly or a beauti- 
ful object. On the contrary, if an ugly object is represented 
as beautiful, we deny the truthfulness or the consistency of 
the picture. Now there are some artists who paint shameful 
actions: thus Timotheus* pictured Medea killing her chil- 
dren ; Theon* showed Orestes murdering his mother ; Par- 

^ See Introd. pp. 18-24. 

'In the essay entitled Whether the Athenians were More Renowned 
for their Warlike Achievements or for their Learning c. iii, Plutarch 
attributes this saying to Simonides : ' Indeed, Simonides calls painting 
silent poetry, and poetry speaking painting. For those actions which 
painters represent as occurrent history relates as past. And what the 
one sets forth in colors and figures, the other relates in words and sen- 
tences ; only they differ in the materials and manner of imitation.' See 
also Horace, Art of Poetry 361 ff.: 

For poems are like pictures : some appear 

Best in the distance, others standing near ; 

This loves the shade, while that the light endures. 

Nor shuns the nicest ken of connoisseurs ; 

This charms for once, and then the charm is o'er, 

While that, the more surveyed, still charms the more. 
* A statuary and sculptor who belonged to the later Attic school of 
the time of Scopas and Praxiteles. He was one of the artists who 
executed the bas-relief which adorned the frieze of the mausoleum, 
about 352 B.C. 

^ Of Samos, a painter who flourished from the time of Philip onward 
to that of the successors of Alexander. The peculiar merit of Theon 
was his prolific fancy. 


How to Study Poetry 

rhasius/ Odysseus counterfeiting madness; and Chaere- 
phanes,^ the unchaste converse of women with men. In 
such instances it is especially important that the young man 
come to understand that we do not praise the action 
imitated, but the art, provided the subject is treated accu- 
rately. Since now poetry also frequently describes base 
actions and depraved emotions and character, the youth must 
not confound their artistic admirableness and success with 
truth, nor rank them as beautiful, but is only to praise them 
as accurate and truthful likenesses of the things treated. 
For as we are annoyed when we hear the grunting of a 
hog, the noise of pulleys, the whistling of the wind, and the 
roaring of the seas, but are pleased if any one imitates them 
with naturalness, as Parmenio did the hog,^ and Theodorus 
the pulleys, and as we avoid the unpleasant sight of an 
unhealthy man with festering sores, but take pleasure in 
witnessing the Philoctetes of Aristophon* and the Jocasta 
of Silanion,** which are realistic likenesses of wasting and 
dying persons, so when the youth reads what Thersites the 
fool, or Sisyphus the debaucher, or Batrachus the brothel- 
keeper says or does, he must be taught to praise the genius 
and the art which imitates, but to censure the subjects and 
actions with opprobrium.® For the excellence of a thing 

* A contemporary and rival of Zeuxis, who flourished 400-380 B.C. 
Zeuxis deceived the birds by his painted grapes ; Parrhasius deceived 
Zeuxis himself by his painting of a curtain. 

' Better known as Nicophanes : Greek painter, younger contempo- 
rary or successor of Apelles, but inferior to him ; he chose subjects of 
a meretricious character for his painting. 

* See Introd. p. 22, note. 

^ A painter of some distinction. See Introd. p. 22, note. 

^ A distinguished statuary in bronze. His statues belonged to two 
classes, ideal and actual portraits. Of the former, the most celebrated 
-was his dying Jocasta, in which a deadly paleness was given to the face 
by the mixture of silver with the bronze. His statue of Sappho, which 
stood in the Prytaneum at Syracuse in the time of Verres, is alluded to 
by Cicero in terms of the highest praise. See Introd. p. 22, note. 

* See Milton, Apology for Smectymnuus : * By the firm settling of these 
persuasions, I became, to my best memory, so much a proficient, that 


How to Study Poetry 

and the excellence of its imitation are not the same; fitness 
and naturalness constitute excellence, but to things base 
the base is natural and fit. To be sure, the boots of 
Demonides the cripple, which, when they were lost, he 
wished might fit the feet of him who stole them, were 
sorry objects, but they fitted him. Take also the following 
passage, *If one must needs do wrong, let it be for power's 
sake ;'^ and this, 'Gain a reputation for fair dealing, and you 
may do the deeds of a knave ;'* and, *A talent for my dowry ! 
Shall I not have it? Can I live if I slight it? Shall I meet 
with sleep if I chance to loose it? Will I not suffer hell's 
torments if I sin against a silver talent ?'* these are false and 
villainous speeches, but suited to Eteocles, Ixion, and an 
old griping usurer. If now we suggest to young men 
that the poets do not commend and praise these sentiments, 
but assign disgusting and base words to base and disgust- 
ing characters, they will not get wrong notions about the 
poets. On the contrary, their suspicion of the character 
will extend to his acts and words, the assumption being 
that the words and acts of a base man must likewise be 
base.* Of such a sort is the representation of Paris stealing 
away from the battle to lie with Helen; for as this lascivious 
and adulterous fellow is the only man whom the poet 
represents as lying with a woman in the daytime, it is clear 
that he regards incontinence as a shame and a reproach.** 

if I found those authors anywhere speaking unworthy things of them- 
selves, or unchaste of those names which before they had extolled, this 
effect it wrought with me — from that time forward their art I still 
applauded, but the men I deplored.' 

* Euripides, Phoeniss 524. See Cicero, De Off, iii. 21. 82 : * Nam si 
violendum est jus, regnandi gratia violandum est.* 

' Nauck 652. 

^ Meineke, Fragmenta Comicorum Graecorum iv. 668. 

* See Poet, xxv. 8. 

*//. iii. 380-461. See Symposiacs \\\, 6. 4, for similar comment on this 


How to Study Poetry 


In such passages one must observe very carefully whether 
or not the poet gives any intimation that he himself is dis- 
pleased with these ignoble sentiments. Instance Menander 
in the prologue to his Thetis: 'Now sing to me, goddess, of 
such a maid, bold, youthful, and enticing, ever sinning, ever 
wronging others, ever shutting her doors to men, and crav- 
ing ever, loving no man, though always feigning love.'^ 
But Homer is the most particular of all the poets in this 
respect, for condemnation precedes the expression of base 
sentiments, and commendation, of the good. Of commenda- 
tion, note the following: *So straightway he spake a sweet 
and cunning word;'^ *He stood by his side, and refrained 
him with gentle words.'^ And as for condemnation, his 
testimony is all but a command to us not to use nor heed 
disgusting and base speeches. Thus, when he is about to 
narrate how uncivilly Agamemnon treated the priest, he pre- 
mises, 'Yet the thing pleased not the heart of Agamemnon, 
son of Atreus, but he roughly sent him away,'* intimating 
that such an act is brutal, hard-hearted, and unbecoming. 
And when he attributes these rash words to Achilles, 'Thou 
heavy with wine, thou with face of dog and heart of deer,'* 
he passes this judgment upon them, 'Then Peleus' son spake 
again with bitter words to Atreus' son, and in no wise 
ceased from anger,'® for it is against reason that words 
spoken in such anger and bitterness should be just. In a 
similar way he passes comment upon actions; thus, 'He 

* Meineke iv. 131. ' Odys, vi. 148. 
8//. ii. 189. <//. i. 124. 

* See Plato, Rep, iii. 390 : * What again of this line, — 

* * O heavy with wine, who hast the eyes of a dog and the heart of a 

stag." (//. i. 225.) 
And of the verses which follow ? Would you say that these or any 
other impertinent words which private men are supposed to address to 
their rulers, whether in verse or prose, are well or ill spoken ? 

They are ill spoken.* 

•//. i. 223. 


How to Study Poetry 

said, and devised foul entreatment of noble Hector, stretch- 
ing him prone in the dust beside the bier of Menoitios' son.'^ 
He also makes good use of the criticism which one charax:tfer 
passes upon another, for registering his own opinions of 
actions and speeches, as when he makes the gods say of the 
adultery of Ares, '111 deed, ill speed ! The slow catcheth the 
swift/^ And notice the intimation in Hera's resentment of 
the disdain and arrogance of Hector, 'So spake he boastfully, 
and queen Hera had indignation,'^ and observe the following 
in the light of Pandarus' shooting, 'So spake Athene, and 
persuaded his fool's heart.'* Now every attentive reader 
will notice such condemnations, which are expressed in the 
very words of the text.*^ 

But other hints are embodied in the actions. Thus Eurip- 
ides is said to have replied to those who found fault with his 
Ixion as an impious and dirty fellow, 'Nay, but I did not 
take him off the stage until I had fastened him to a torturing 
wheel.' This teaching by implication is also used by Homer, 
and offers helpful and subtle comment upon those very fables 
most often misconstrued. For some men distort these 
stories, and pervert them into allegories,® or what the men 
of old times called hidden meanings."^ Thus they say that 
the real meaning of the adultery of Aphrodite and Ares, 
discovered by Helios,® is that when the star called Ares 
comes in conjunction with Aphrodite, bastardly births are 
produced, and that, since the sun rises and discovers them, 
they are not concealed. So will they have Hera's arraying 
herself for Zeus and the enchantment of the girdle® to mean 
the purification of the air in the vicinity of fire. As if the 
poet had not interpreted these episodes! For in the fable 
of Aphrodite, he teaches the attentive student that lig-ht 

' //. xxiii. 24. * Odys, viii. 329. ^ //. viii. 198. * //. iv. 104. 

*See Schrader, Porphyrio^ Quaesti, Homer, 313-31 5» for observations 
similar to these. 

• See Saintsbury, History of Crit. i. 2. 10, and Schlemm, 32-36, for 
a discussion of the extent and character of early allegorical interpreta- 
tion. Such interpretation is rejected by Plato ; see Rep, ii, and Phaedrus, 

''imovoiai. ^See Odys, viii. 265-367. *//. xiv. 152-352. 


How to Study Poetry 

music, wanton songs, and obscene talk make for impure 
characters, unmanly lives, and natures given over to luxury 
and effeminacy, 'changes of raiment, and the warm bath, 
and love, and sleep.'^ And therefore he brings in Odysseus 
bidding the bard, 'Come now, change thy strain, and sing 
of the fashioning of the horse of wood,'^ thus teaching 
rightly that musicians and poets should take their themes 
from men of reason and understanding.^ In the fable of 
Hera he teaches most effectively that intercourse and favors 
secured from men through drugs, sorcery, and cunning not 
only are short-lived, inconstant, and soon cloying, but are 
quickly turned to displeasure and loathing when once passion 
has spent itself. This is exemplified by the way Zeus 
threatens Hera, when he says to her 'that thou mayest 
know if it profit thee at all, the dalliance and the love 
wherein thou didst lie with me, when thou hadst come from 
among the gods and didst beguile me.'* For if the disgrace 
and harm to the doer is embodied in the representation and 
imitation of a base act, the reader is helped rather than 
hindered. At any rate, philosophers employ examples from 
history for our correction and instruction, and the poets 
only differ from them by inventing and presenting fictitious 
narratives. Be it in jest or earnest, Melanthius*^ was wont 
to say that the salvation of Athens depended upon the dis- 
sensions and quarrels among the orators; for thus not all 
the citizens took the same view, and in this diversity was a 
preventive of harm. Similarly the contradictions in the 
poets offset one another, so that the balance cannot incline 
unduly toward that which is hurtful. Therefore, when a 
comparison of one passage with another exposes a contra- 
diction, we ought to adhere to the better sentiment, as in 

' Odys, viii. 249. ' Odys. viii. 492. 

• See like comment in Schrader, 74-75. 

*//. XV. 32. See jRep, iii. 390, for Plato's comment on these episodes 
of Zeus and Hera and of Ares and Aphrodite. 

• An Athenian tragic poet, of whom little is known beyond the attacks 
made on him by Aristophanes and the other comic poets. The most 
important passage respecting him is in the Peace of Aristophanes (796 ff.). 
Several specimens of his celebrated wit are preserved by Plutarch. 


How to Study Poetry 

these instances : * "Many times, my son, the gods ruin men ;" 
" Tis easy to lay blame on the gods ;" '^ and again, * "Much 
wealth is thine, but they are bankrupt ;" "Accursed the rich 
fool ;" '^ * "What then, must you kill yourself with sacrific- 
ing?" "Indeed it is no hardship to reverence the gods." '* 
Such contradictions need not trouble a young man, if, as I 
have said, we teach him to fix upon the better sentiment. 

But when absurd sayings are not refuted in the con- 
text, they are to be canceled by contradictory sentiments 
occurring elsewhere in the same author, and we are not to 
be vexed with the poet because of such absurdities, nor to 
judge him harshly, but to accept them as playful masquer- 
ading. So, if he wishes, when he hears of the gods hurling 
one another from heaven, wounded by mortals, and quarrel- 
ing and brawling,* he may say to Homer, * "Yet thou hast it 
in thee to devise other sayings more excellent than this,"** 
and certainly you give utterance to far better thoughts else- 
where, as "The gods that live at ease ;"® "Therein the blessed 
gods are glad for all their days ;"'^ "This is the lot the gods 
have spun for miserable men, that they should live in pain ; 
yet themselves are sorrowless." '® For these are sound and 
true opinions of the gods, but those above were only feigned 
to cause men fear. Again, when Euripides says, *By many an 
artifice the gods, who are our betters, cause us to stumble,'* 
it is well to return a better answer in the words of Euripides 
himself, *If the gods do anything base, they are no gods.'^* 
And when in a very bitter and provoking way Pindar says, 
*We must stop at nothing that will enfeeble our enemy, once 
our friend,'^^ we shall answer, *But you yourself say that 
"Unrighteous pleasure awaits the bitterest end." '^^ So when 
Sophocles says, 'Sweet is the gain which falsehood brings,'^' 
we shall rejoin, 'But we have heard you say that "False 
words produce no fruit." '^* 

1 Nauck 345. * Ibid 542. * Nauck 694. 

*See Plato, JRep, ii. 378 ;<iii. 390 ; and pp. 104-105. *//. vii. 358. 

«//. vi. 138. ■» Odys, vi. 46. « //. xxii. 525. » Nauck 519. 

^^ Ibid. 355. See Plutarch, The Contradictions of the Stoics jj, 
" Isthm, iv. 48. " Ibid. vii. 47. i* Nauck 246. " Ibid. 246. 


How to Study Poetry 

Again, to what the same author says of riches, 'The 
inaccessible and the accessible alike open up to wealth, while 
nowhere may the man who earns his daily bread compass 
his heart's desire, even by entreaty; riches truly make the 
unshapely body fair to see, and cause the ineloquent man to 
speak with skilful tongue,'^ may be opposed many of his own 
words, such as these : 'From honor, poverty doth not debar ;'^ 
'Poverty is no reproach to him whose thoughts are noble ;'' 
'Wherein are a multitude of fine things a boon, if the fool's 
anxiety is the price paid for blessed wealth?'* Menander 
undoubtedly stirred up and inflamed the love of pleasure by 
the following amorous and burning lines, 'Everything that 
has life and with us beholds the common sun is the slave of 
pleasure ','^ but at another time he pursues a different course 
and inclines us to virtue, checking the rage of lust, when he 
says, 'An infamous life is a reproach, however sweet it 
be.'® These lines are contrary to the former, and both better 
and more profitable. Accordingly, such comparison and 
critical examination of passages either inclines one to the 
better, or at least destroys one's confidence in the worse. 

But if any of the poets do not themselves offer an escape 
from those things which they have said amiss, it is well to 
employ the contrary sentiments of other famous men, so 
that the better may outbalance the worse. Thus, when 
Alexis^ tempts people with these words, 'The wise man must 
needs heap up pleasures, and three there are which have the 
power to make life fully and finally complete: to eat, to 
drink, to follow after wanton sports ; and if other pleasures 
be added to these, they are to be counted over-measure,'® we 
must remember that Socrates, in far different strain, says 
that 'Bad men live that they may eat and drink, but good 
men eat and drink that they may live.' And to offset the 

> Ibid. ii8. « Ibid. 247. ' Ibid. 247. 

* Ibid. 207. « Meineke iv. 266. « Ibid. iv. 282. 

' Comic poet ; b. B.C. 392. * One of the most important and prolific 
writers of the Middle Attic Comedy, yet living as he did to the age of 
106, he reached far into the period of the New Attic Comedy. The 
part of the parasite was considered his special invention.' 

^Meineke iii. 518. 


How to Study Poetry 

sentiment of the man who wrote, 'Against the knave^ knav- 
ery itself is no bad tool' — ^as it were commending us to be- 
come like the knave — we are to use the words of Diogenes/ 
who, being asked how a man might revenge himself upon 
an enemy, said, *by being an honest and upright man him- 
self/ Diogenes may also be cited against Sophocles, who 
caused utter despair to multitudes of men when he wrote 
thus about the mysteries: 'Thrice happy mortals they who 
behold these mysteries ere the journey to Hades; to them 
alone is it given there to enjoy life's vigor; on others all 
ills attend.' For when Diogenes heard some such thing, 
'What then,' says he, 'shall Pataecion the thief enjoy a better 
lot than Epaminondas,^ simply because he was initiated?' 
And when Timotheus* in the theatre was extolling Artemis, 
calling her 'mad, inspired, possessed, frenzied,'*^ Cinesias® 
straightway shouted back, 'May thy daughter be such a one.' 
Similarly, when Theognis"^ said, 'Naught may he say or do 
who bears the yoke of poverty ; his tongue is bound,'® Bion® 
cleverly replied, 'How comes it then that thou thyself, being 
so poor, so copiously pratest and chatterest in this manner?'^** 

* See pp. 117. * Nauck 247. 

^ Statesman and general ; b. at Thebes about 418 B.C^ Epaminondas 
was the successful leader of the Thebans in their wars with the Spartans, 
showing remarkable military genius. ' He left a pure and exalted repu- 
tation as a patriot, a statesman, and a sage, and is universally admitted 
to have been one of the greatest captains of antiquity. Cicero expressed 
the opinion that Epaminondas was the greatest man that Greece had 

* The most admired Greek musician of his day ; flourished towards 
the close of the fourth century, B.C. His innovation consisted in the 
use of a chorus in rendering the so-called Nome, and in the employ- 
ment of mimetic action to enliven the delivery. * Bergk 3. 620. 

* Probably the dithyrambic poet ridiculed by Aristophanes. 
'Seep. 54. ^177. 'A Cyreniac philosopher of the third cen- 
tury B.C., noted for his sharp sa3angs. 

*° Schlemm attributes the ridicule of allegory in this chapter, and the 
moral interpretation of Homer, to the influence of lost Peripatetic 
writings, the discussion of the contradictions in the poets to the Stoics, 
and the chronologically impossible anecdotes in the last paragraph to 
Plutarch's ingenious association of the famous words of poets and 


How to Study Poetry 


Nor is the context to be ignored as a factor in correct 
interpretation. Just as physicians believe that, although the 
cantharides is deadly, its feet and wings are efficacious in 
nullifying the effect of the poison,^ so in poetry if any noun 
or verb in the context can make a better case out for a pas- 
sage, it should be eagerly taken up with and noted. This 
method should be employed in the following verses, *Lo 
this is now the only due we pay to miserable men, to cut 
the hair and let the tear fall from the cheek ;'^ 'This is the 
lot the gods have spun for miserable men, that they should 
live in pain/^ For Homer does not say that for absolutely 
every man the gods have woven a painful life, but for those 
who are foolish and unreasonable, whom, because wicked- 
ness has made them such, he is wont to call wretched and 


We shall be further helped in our efforts to put the best 
interpretation upon doubtful passages by observing whether 
or not a word is used in its ordinary sense f in this a young 
man should be better trained than in the study of dialects. 
Thus it is a point in philology, and rather an interesting 
one too, that piyeSavoi (making one shudder) means an evil 
death, for the Macedonians use Sofos as a synonym for 
death. The Aeolians call victory won through endurance 
and persistency KofifiovCtj^* (a staying behind), and the Dry- 
opians call divinities iro7roi(0 strange ones!). 

Further, if we wish to be helped rather than hindered by 
the poets, it is both profitable and necessary to know how 
they use the names of gods, as also the terms for evil and 

* See Dioscorides i. 66. ' Odys, iv. 197. * //. xxiv. 526. 

* See Aristotle, Foet, xxv. 8-20, for similar suggestions. 
^Poet, xxv. 8-20. 

* £p. for Karafiov^, explained by Schol. i eK Karafiov^g viiaj, 


How to Study Poetry 

good, what they mean by Ti^ and Mdipa (Fortune and 
Fate), and whether, as in the case of a number of other 
words, they use these in one or in many senses. For 
o6cos (house, abode) sometimes means a material house, 
as, 'into his high-roofed home,'^ and sometimes an estate, 
as, * My property' is being devoured." Similarly, /8&ro« 
(life) means life, as, *But Poseidon of the dark locks made 
his shaft of no avail, grudging him the life.'* but also 
wealth, as, 'that others may consume his livelihood.'* 
Again 6Xvuv (mental wandering) is also used instead of 
the terms for sore vexation and perplexity respectively, as 
' So spake he, and she departed in amaze and was sore 
troubled,'® and the same word also signifies boasting and 
rejoicing, as, 'Art thou beside thyself for joy, because thou 
hast beaten the beggar Irus?'^ Likewise Oodiav (to move 
quickly) means to move, as in Euripides, 'the whale rush- 
ing beyond the Atlantic deeps,'® and again, to sit down and 
to remain seated, as in Sophocles, 'Why sit ye here, your 
hands thus wreathed with the suppliant's boughs?'* 

It is also in good taste, as the grammarians teach, to 
adapt words to the matter in hand, by construing them from 
their customary meanings, as in this passage, v^ 6Xiy^ 
aivdvy /AcyoXiy 8* hit ^^oprria OiaOai (a fresh pittance courteously 
to decline, but to store up goods in abundance) ,^^ for here 
olvav (to tell or speak of) has the meaning of imuvw (to 
approve, praise, in the sense of to decline courteously), and 

' Otfys, V. 42: oIkov kg i^dpo^. ^ B. and L, read dwelling, 

» Odys, iv. 318: kadiercU fioi oI«of. * //. xiii. 562 : 

KvavoxaXra Hoaeiddav, pi&roio /ley^pac, 

* Odys, xiii. 419: fiiorov Si fiot &^Xot idtyvai. 

• //. V. 352 : &c i^a^f i <J* aXiovtf direp^erOf retpero (T atvdf. 
' Odys. xviii. 332: i a?,ieig iri Ipov kvliofaac rdv aX^npf. 

® Nauck 523: K^og dod^ov k^ 'A.r'kavTiK^ aX6g, 

» Oed, Tyr, 2 : 

rivag ir6d^ iSpag rdade fjioi dod^ert 

hcrripiot/Q KXddotaiv k^eurefifiivoi, 

Hermann interprets the word as meaning, come in haste to this suppliant 

posture, or sit in earnest supplication. 

lOHesiod. W, and D, 641. 


How to Study Poetry 

iwauvdv in turn is used instead of impaiTdafitu (to beg off). 
Similarly, in familiar intercourse we say xoXok ix^v (to be 
well), and we bid a thing x'l^^P^'^ (farezvell), when we do 
not care for it nor wish to receive it. So in the expression 
iwaufil n^MTc^eia (dread Proserpine), some say that the 
force of the adjective is that of irapairrfni (to be deprecated). 

Now that they may discriminate with equal care in those 
words which have to do with the weighty and serious affairs 
of the gods, we should begin by teaching young men that 
the poets use the names of the gods sometimes to denote 
the divine beings themselves, and sometimes without change 
to designate certain elements which the gods have given and 
control.^ Archilochus illustrates this well. When he prays, 
'Hear my petition, King Hephaestus, and be gracious to thy 
suppliant and grant his desire,'^ plainly he invokes the god 
himself; but when, in dirge-like measure, he bewails the 
drowning of his brother-in-law, because he perished without 
ftmeral rites, 'Had Hephaestus but proved a purifying gar- 
ment for his dear head and limbs!* he applies the name to 
the fire and not to the god. Again, when Euripides says 
with an oath, 'By star-encircled Zeus and bloody Mars,'* he 
means the gods, but when Sophocles says, 'For the blind 
unseeing Ares, O dames, with swine-like snout stirs up all 
ills,'* war is meant. By the same word we are also to under- 
stand brazen arms when Homer says, 'Keen Ares hath spilt 
their dusky blood about fair-flowing Skamandros.'® 

Analogous to these examples, we must recognize that when 
the words God and Zeus are employed, the poets some- 
times mean the very God himself, sometimes Fortune, and 
oftentimes Fate.'' When they say, 'Father Zeus, that rulest 
from Ida,'® and, 'O Zeus, who claims to be more wise than 
thou?'® it is the god himself. But when they call Zeus the 
cause of all results, saying, 'And hurled down into Hades 
many strong souls of heroes, so the counsel of Zeus wrought 

" Compare Schrader 42. 24. ' Bergk. 2. 404. ' Ibid. 2. 387. 

* Phoen. 1013. ' Nauck 247. • //. vii. 329. 

' Teaching of the Stoics ; compare Gercke, Chrysippusy Fragmenta 32, 
36, 99 ; Plutarch, Contradictions of the Stoics 34. ® //. iii. 276. 

* Nauck 694. 


How to Study Poetry 

out its accomplishment/^ they have Fate in mind. For the 
poet does not believe that the god devises ill against men, 
but he shows the inevitableness with which prosperity and 
victory wait upon cities, armies and leaders who practise 
self-control, and with which shame, disaster, and confusion 
result to those who, like men divided into wrangling fac- 
tions, yield to passion and error.^ Fate is also meant in 
the following: *It is decreed that the evil plans of mortals 
shall bear them a full harvest of ills/* But when Hesiod 
makes Prometheus advise Epimetheus, 'Never receive thou 
gifts from the Olympic Zeus, but cast them from thee/* 
the name of the god is used to denote Fortune, for the goods 
of Fortune, such as riches, marriages, kingdoms, and in 
short every material thing, the possession of which is with- 
out profit to those who are unable to use it wisely, he calls 
the gifts of Zeus.*^ Therefore he believes that Epimetheus, 
who is a stupid dolt, must guard against prosperity and 
fear it, as that which would injure and destroy him. And 
in another instance he calls that which befalls men by 
Fortune, God's gift, when he says, *See that thou never 
cast poverty in a man's teeth as a deadly ill, for 'tis ever the 
gift of the blessed gods.'® Consequently it is wrong to 
censure those whom Fortune has made poor, since poverty 
is alone a reproach, a shame, and a disgrace, when it is 
attendant upon sloth, impotence, and prodigality. For 
before men called it by the name of Fortune, they recog- 
nized that there was a powerful cause, irregular and 
uncertain in its movements, the inevitableness of which 
the human reason could not control, and to define this they 
used the names of the gods, just as we are wont to call 
deeds and characteristics, and also even maxims and men, 
divine and godlike. Thus we may rectify many seemingly 
absurd statements concerning Zeus, such as the following 
for example: 'For two urns stand upon the floor of Zeus 

*//. i. 5. ^Compare Gellius, Nodes AtiicaewW, 2. 14; Eusebius, 

Praeparatio Evangelica vi. 8. 2. *Nauck 695. * W, and D, 86. 

* Compare Plutarch, Of Fortune 6 ; Schrader 276. 17. 
« Ibid. 717. 


How to Study Poetry 

filled with his evil gifts, and one with blessings;'^ *Our 
oaths of truce Kronos' son, enthroned on high, accomplished 
not; but evil is his intent and ordinance for both our 
hosts ;'^ 'For in those days the first wave of woe was rolling 
on Trojans and Danaans through the counsel of great 
Zeus'^ These are spoken of Fortune or of Fate, the causes 
of which we cannot reason out, and which, in short, are not 
our concern. But when reasonable and probable senti- 
ments, such as befit a god, are expressed, we are to suppose 
that the name of the god is used in its strict sense. Note 
the following instances of this : *He ranged among the ranks 
of other men, but he avoided the battle of Ajax son of 
Telamon, for Zeus would have been wroth with him if he 
fought with a better man than himself;'* *For Zeus busies 
himself with the great affairs of men, but passes by the 
small, and leaves them to the lesser gods.'*^ 

It is also extremely important that we take note of other 
words to which, in many cases, the poets by metonymy give 
other than their ordinary meanings. Such a word is dficni 
(virtue). For since virtue not only makes men discreet, 
just, and good, in both word and deed, but without doubt 
also secures them honor and power, poets see fit to call 
reputation and power, virtue, just as we indiscriminately 
call both the olive tree and its fruit iXala (olive), and the oak 
and the acorn ^lyyos (oak). So when a young man reads 
such passages as these. Then the Danaans by their virtue 
brake the battalions ;'® 'If death is the common lot of man- 
kind let men die nobly, merging life in virtue ;'^ he should at 
once appreciate that the poet is speaking of that best and 
most divine state which we deem to be rightness of reason, 
excellence of the rational nature, and a normal condition 
of the soul.^ But when he reads, *But for virtue, Zeus 
increaseth it in men or minisheth it;'® and 'Virtue and 

*//. xxiv. 527. See p. 55, note. *//. vii. 69. 

» Odys, viii. 81. *//. xi. 540. * Hesiod, ^. andD. 289. 

•//. xi. 90. L. L. and M. read valour, ' For similar definitions after 
Zeno, Chrysippus, and Cleanthes compare Diogenes Laertius vii. 89 ; 
Cicero, Tusculanae Dispuiationes iv. 34 ; Stobaeus, Anthologium ii. 

^ Nauck 529. *//. XX. 242. L. L. and M. read valour. 


Hoiv to Study Poetry 

honour upon wealth attend ;'^ let him not sit down in gaping 
admiration of rich men, as if their silver straightway could 
purchase virtue, nor let him think that Fortune may 
increase or lessen his wisdom, but rather let him conceive 
that the poet used virtue as a synonym for reputation, power, 
prosperity, or some such word. Also, at one time the poet 
makes KOKonfi {evil) stand for a wicked and vicious heart, 
as in Hesiod, 'For evil is at hand in great abundance/^ 
and at another for some misfortune or ill-luck, as in Homer, 
Tor men quickly age in evil fortune.'* Then any one would 
be sadly deceived who thought that the poets, like phil- 
osophers, use the word cvSoifuivia {happiness) to denote 
a perfect habitual enjoyment of all good things, or the 
completeness of life in accordance with nature, and that 
they do not frequently misuse the word by calling the rich 
man happy, and power and reputation happiness. Homer, 
indeed, uses these words correctly. Thus look you, I have 
no joy of my lordship among these my possessions,'* and 
Menander as well, 'For my much possessions I am called 
rich by all, but happy by none.'** But if, as said above, 
one does not attend to the metaphorical uses and misuses 
of the words, Euripides causes much misunderstanding and 
confusion when he writes, 'Let not a life of weal become 
a life of woe to me;'® or, 'Why honorest thou tyranny, injus- 
tice triumphant?'^ But enough has been said upon this 


Another principle that must be reiterated in teaching 
young men is, that while poetry is based upon imitation, 
and employs embellishment and richness of diction suited 
to the actions and characters in hand,^ it does not resign 

^ W, andD, 313. * W. and D, 287. ' Odys, xix. 360. * Odys. iv. 93. 

* Meineke iv. 266. • Medea 598. ' Phoeniss, 549, 

^ Poet, vi. 2-3 : * Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is 

serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude ; in language embellished 

with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in 

separate parts of the play. ... By "language embellished," I mean 


How to Study Poetry 

the likeness of the truth, since the charm of imitation is j 
probability.^ Wherefore such imitation as does not wholly 
ignore the truth weaves a mixture of virtue and vice into 
the action. This is done in the poetry of Homer, which 
completely renounces the principles of the Stoics, who hold 
that nothing bad can be where virtue is, and nothing good 
where vice is, but that the ignorant man is ever in error, 
and the cultured man always right. Such stuff we hear in 
the schools. But in the life and affairs of the mass of 
mankind, according to the judgment of Euripides, 'Virtue 
and vice are never found alone, but blended, as it were.' 

Now since poetry does not keep strictly to truth, it makes 
much use of variety and transitions.^ For reversals of for- 
tune furnish plots with emotional disturbance, with the unex- 
pected and surprising, upon which deep emotion and delight 
best attend. But the uncomplicated is not fitted to stir 
emotion and serve as fiction. Wherefore the poets do not 
miake their characters uniformly victorious, successful, or 
happy, nor when the gods engage in human affairs are they 
represented as free from passion and error, lest, through 

language into which rh3rthm, "harmony," and song enter. By "the 
several kinds in separate parts," I mean that some parts are rendered 
through the medium of verse alone, others again with the aid of song.' 

' See p. 22, note 2. 

^ Poet, x-xiii : * Plots are either Simple or Complicated. . . . An action 
which is one and continuous. . . I call Simple, when the turning 
point is reached without Reversal of Fortune, or Recognition ; Compli- 
cated, when it is reached with Reversal of Fortune or Recognition, or 
both. ... A Reversal of Fortune is, as we have said, a change by 
which a train of action produces the opposite of the effect intended ; 
and that, according to our rule of probability or necessity. ... A 
Recognition ... is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing 
love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad 
fortune. ... A perfect tragedy should be arranged, not on the simple, 
but on the complicated plan. ... It follows plainly, in the first place, 
that the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a 
perfectly good man brought from prosperity to adversity : for this 
moves neither pity nor fear ; it simply shocks us. Nor, again, that of 
a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity ; ... it neither satis- 
fies the moral sense, nor calls forth pity or fear.' 


How to Study Poetry 

absence of peril and conflict, the poem should fail to excite 
and astonish.^ 


Since this is true, we should so guide a youth in his early 
study of poetry that reverence for names may not lead him 
to esteem the fair and stalwart heroes as men of wisdom 
and justice, the perfection of princes, and the standard of 
all excellence and virtue. For he will suffer harm if he 
thinks all their acts astonishingly great, and is quite unwil- 
ling to disapprove of them himself, or to accept criticism 
from others, even if it be of those who act and speak as 
follows : Tor would, O father Zeus, and Athene, and Apollo, 
would that not one of all the Trojans might escape death, 
nor one of the Arg^ves, but that we twain might avoid 
destruction, that alone we might undo the sacred coronal 
of Troy ;'^ and, 'Most pitiful of all that I heard was the voice 
of the daughter of Priam, of Cassandra, whom hard by me 
the crafty Qytemnestra slew;'* and, *So she besought me 
continually by my knees to go in first unto the concubine, 
that the old man might be hateful to her;'* and, 'Father 
Zeus, surely none of the gods is cruder than thou.'* A 
young man should not get into the way of praising any 
such sentiment, nor of showing his clever powers of persua- 
sion in finding excuses and inventing plausible misinterpre- 
tations for bad passages ; rather let him keep in mind that 
poetry is an imitation of character and life, and of men who 
are not wholly perfect, pure, and blameless, but in some 
degree subject to passion, error, and ignorance, who, how- 

* See Plutarch's essay Concerning Music i6 : * The mixed Lydian 
moves the affections, and is fit for tragedies. This mood, as Aristoxe- 
nus alleges, was invented by Sappho, from whom the tragedians 
learned it and joined it with the Doric. The one becomes a majestic, 
lofty style, the other mollifies and stirs to pity, both which are the 
properties of tragedy.* 

8 //. xvi. 97. * Odys. xi. 421. 

4//. ix. 452. *//. iii. 365. 

How to Study Poetry 

ever, through strength of character are often changed for 
the better.^ For if his mind is thus prepared, a young man 
will receive no harm from his reading, for while he will be 
delighted and inspired by wise words and acts, he will not 
entertain, but dislike, those which are bad. On the other 
hand, the man" who admires indiscriminately and accepts 
everything, whose judgment is enslaved by his esteem for 
the names of heroes, like those who affect Plato's humpback 
and the lisping of Aristotle, will take up with much that is 
bad before he realizes it.^ 

So a youth must not be timid, nor, like superstitious people 
in a temple, prostrate himself in holy awe of everything, but 
must form the habit of pronouncing his judgment with con- 
fidence, as, 'This was right and proper ;' 'That was not well.' 
For example, chafing at the delays in the campaign, because 
he was extremely desirous of winning distinction in arms, 
Achilles called together an assembly of the soldiers while 
they were suffering from an epidemic. But being a physi- 
cian, and noting that the decisive ninth day of the malady 
was passed, he perceived that the sickness was not an ordi- 
nary one nor produced by usual causes, and hence, on rising 
to speak, he did not harangue the crowd, but counseled the 
King, 'Son of Atreus, now deem I that we shall return 
wandering home again ;'^ and he spake well and with due 
moderation. But when the soothsayer professed fear of 
the anger of the chief of the Greeks, observing neither wis- 
dom nor moderation, Achilles swore that while he himself 
were alive no one should lay hands on the old man, 'not 
even if thou mean Agamemnon.'* Here he showed con- 
tempt and disdain for his commander. And when he was 
provoked still more, he unsheathed his sword, thinking to 
kill the king, which was neither right nor expedient. But 
straightway he repented and 'thrust the great sword back 
into the sheath, and was not disobedient to the saying of 
Athene.'** And this last act was right and noble, for 

* See Butcher, c. viii, on The Ideal Tragic Hero, 

*The attitude taken is Peripatetic ; see Ps.-Plutarch, Of the Life ana 
Poetry of Homer 135. '//. i. 59. *//. i. 90. *//. i. 220. 


How to Study Poetry 

although he was not able wholly to quiet his anger, he yet 
made it obey the restraints of reason before it was too late. 
Again, Agamemnon made a fool of himself by his actions 
and words in the assembly, but in the Chryseis affair acted 
more as a dignified prince should ; for though Achilles *wept 
anon, and sat him down apart,'^ when Briseis was taken away 
from him, Agamemnon put on board ship, gave to the care 
of others, and sent away the woman, who, a little before, 
he declared was dearer to him than his lawful wife. Simi- 
larly, when Phoenix was cursed by his father because of the 
concubine, he said, 'Then took I counsel to slay him with the 
keen sword ; but some immortal stayed mine anger, bringing 
to my mind the people's voice and all the reproaches of men, 
lest I shovdd be called a father-slayer amid the Achaians/* 
Aristarchus^ was fearful of the effect of this passage, and 
omitted it; but it served a legitimate purpose, for Phoenix 
was trying to show Achilles what a thing is wrath, and what 
men do in anger, heeding neither reason nor advice. The 
poet also introduces Meleager at first highly wroth with the 
citizens, and later pacified.* Thus by rightly disparaging, 
he encourages one not to yield to anger, and by praising 
repentance as right and expedient, encourages one to battle 
against passion and hold sway over it. But where it is no 
easy matter to pass judgment, we are to help the young 
man to distinguish as follows : If when Nausicaa beheld the 
strange Odysseus she felt the passion of Calypso for him, 
and because she was passionate and ripe for marriage made 
such light talk as this to her maidens, 'Would that such an 
one might be called my husband, dwelling here, and that it 

>//. i. 349. «//. ix.458. 

^Grammarian and critic ; 222-150 B.C. * His special excellence lay 
in textual criticism, in which he showed great acumen, rare powers of 
divination, and soundness of method. His leading principle of exe- 
gesis was the explanation of the author out of himself. He published 
a large number of corrected texts, with critical signs. The Homeric 
scholia derive much of their value from the preservation of the criticisms 
of Aristarchus.' * See //. ix. 527-605. 


How to Study Poetry 

might please him here to abide/^ then her boldness and 
incontinence were blameworthy. But if, because she recog- 
nized his breeding by his language and was charmed by 
his intelligent address, she wished to marry him in prefer- 
ence to a dancing fop or seaman of her own people, she 
was to be commended.^ Again, Odysseus was pleased that 
Penelope conversed in a free and easy way with the suitors, 
and that they presented to her robes and other ornaments ; 
now if his pleasure sprang from covetousness and greed, 
'because she drew from them gifts, and beguiled their souls 
with soothing words,'^ he was a worse panderer than Polia- 
ger, the character in the comedy, 'Happy Poliager, who has 
as paramour a gold-bringing capricom/* On the contrary, 
if he thought that the hopes which Penelope held forth, by 
making the suitors over-confident and blinded to the real 
issue, would put them more within his power, his pleasure 
and good spirits were quite proper. Again, after the Phaea- 
cians had set him ashore with his treasure and departed, if 
by counting it over in such a lonely place, where he was 
ignorant of the inhabitants, he showed anxiety for his goods, 
'lest the men be gone, and have taken back of their gifts 
upon their hollow ship,'** his covetousness deserves to be 
pitied, or rather, I should say, to be abhorred. But if, as 
some think, he was doubtful whether or not the land were 
Ithaca, and thought that to find his goods intact would be 
proof of the sincerity of the Phaeacians — for, if dishonest, 
they would not set him down on a strange shore free of 
charge and leave him there with his possessions untouched — 
then he used a lawful test, and deserves to be commended 
for his good sense. Others find fault with his being put 
ashore while asleep, if indeed the incident really happened, 
and say that the Tuscans preserve a tradition that he was 
naturally a sleepy-head, and not liked on that account. But 
if the sleep was not genuine, but was feigned to relieve him 

' Odys. vi. 254. 

' See p. 107, for St. Basil's comment on this episode. 

* Odys, xviii. 28a. * Meineke iv. 667. * Odys, xiii. 216. 


How to Study Poetry 

from embarrassment — for he was ashamed to dismiss the 
Phaeacians without gifts and feasting, yet knew that such 
festivity would discover him to his enemies — ^they approve of 
the episode.^ 

If then we explain this principle of judgment to young 
men, and without hesitation censure some things and praise 
others, we shall preserve their characters from corruption, 
and arouse their emulation of what is good. And especially 
should we do this in the case of all those tragedies in which 
actions ignoble and wicked are accompanied by persuasive 
and subtle words. For there is not much truth in the say- 
ing of Sophocles, 'From acts not good, good words may 
ne'er proceed.'^ Indeed he himself was wont to connect 
pleasing speeches and philanthropic motives with base char- 
acters and irrational actions. And in a fellow-author you 
may see Phaedra laying on Theseus the blame of her inter- 
course with Hippolytus, on the ground of his maltreatment 
of her.^ Also in The Trojan Dames he allows Helen the 
same license of speech against Hecuba, who, as Helen thinks, 
ought to be punished more than herself, because she gave 
birth to her seducer.* Now the young man should not get 
into the way of thinking anything of this sort clever and 
shrewd, nor of approving such sophistry, but he should dis- 
like such words more than the licentious deeds they excuse. 


Above all it will be of advantage to inquire the reason 
why each idea is expressed. For while Cato was yet a mere 
child, though he always minded his tutor, he yet asked 
the cause and reason of the commands. To be sure, the 
poets are not to be obeyed as tutors and lawgivers, unless 
their thought is based on reason. But it will be so based 
if it is morally good, and, if bad, its utter emptiness will be 
apparent. Now the average nian questions sharply the 

^ Porphyxio offers similar interpretations; see Schrader 117-118; 
Schlemm proposes a common Peripatetic source. 
* Nauck 247. ' Nauck, Eurip, Fr, 430^. 113. * 919. 


Hozv to Study Poetry 

reasonableness of such words as the following: 'Never at 
drinking-bouts should we place the ladle upon the mixing- 
bowl;'^ and, 'Whensoever a warrior from the place of his 
own car can come at a chariot of the foe, let him thrust 
forth with his spear ;'^ while he accepts without question 
even worse sentiments, such, for example, as the following : 
'The consciousness of a father's or a mother's wrong-doing 
makes a slave of any man, be he ever so daring;'* and, 
'He whom fortune has opposed must needs think meanly of 
himself.'* And yet these last sentiments affect character and 
injure a man by debasing his judgment and begetting sordid 
ideas, unless he is accustomed to ask in reply, 'Why now 
must he needs think meanly of himself whom fortune has 
opposed? Why not rather resist it and rise unhumbled? 
And why, if I am a good and wise son of a parent who is 
foolish and bad, should I not rather respect myself for my vir- 
tue than be dejected and cast down because of his stupidity?'** 
He who can thus stand firm against all such sayings, and 
not, as it were, surrender himself to every wind of doctrine, 
and who can recognize the truth of the proverb, 'The dolt 
loves to fee a thrill at every speech,'® will reject such judg- 
ments as neither truthful nor profitable. These suggestions 
will render harmless the study of poetry.*^ 

* Hesiod, IV, and D, 744. * //. iv. 306. 

* Euripides, HippoL 424. * Nauck 695. 

* See Of the Training of Children ii, where Plutarch reasons very 
differently from this same passage of Euripides : * For the spirits of 
men who are alloyed and counterfeit in their birth are naturally 
enfeebled and debased ; as rightly said the poet again, — 

A bold and daring spirit is often daunted, 
When with the guilt of parents* crimes 'tis haunted.* 
[This translation is from the Goodwin edition.] 

* Mullach I. 326. 

' This style of criticism follows Bion, who attacks this same line from 
Euripides ; see Diogenes Laertius iv. 51, and Schlemm*s comment, 65. 


How to Study Poetry 


As on a vine the leaves and branches frequently cover 
up and conceal the ripe fruit, so the diction of poetry and 
its profusion of fictitious narrative conceal many useful and 
helpful things from the attention of a young man. Now he 
ought not to be thus led astray, but rather to give himself 
wholly to those things which make for virtue and exert a 
powerful influence upon character. I shall therefore develop 
this thought, though briefly and only in outline, leaving it to 
more ostentatious writers to verify and illustrate my ideas. 
First then, let the youth, knowing well the good and bad 
respectively in manners and men, turn his attention to the 
words and deeds which the poet attributes to his several 
characters. Though he is speaking in anger, Achilles says 
to Agamemnon, 'Never win I meed like .unto thine, when 
the Achaians sack any populous citadel of Trojan men,'^ 
but Thersites addresses him abusively, 'Surely thy huts are 
full of bronze and many women are in thy huts, the chosen 
spoils that we Achaians give thee first of all, whene'er we 
take a town.'^ Again, Achilles says, *If ever Zeus grant 
us to sack some well-walled town of Troy-land,'^ but Ther- 
sites, 'whom I perchance or some other Achaian have led 
captive.'* At another time, when Agamemnon, inspecting 
the army, speaks abusively to Diomedes, the latter makes no 
reply, *but had respect to the chiding of the king revered,'* 
but Sthenelus, a fellow of no account, says, 'Atreides, utter 
not falsehood, seeing thou knowest how to speak truly. We 
avow ourselves to be better men by far than our fathers 
were.'® If such differences are not overlooked they will 
teach a youth to regard modesty and moderation as the 
marks of gentility, but to shun boasting and bragging as 
vulgar. It is worth while, in this connection to notice the 
conduct of Agamemnon ; for he passes Sthenelus by without 

^//. i. 163. «//. ii. 226. »//. i. 128. 

*//. ii. 231. *//. iv. 402. •//. iv. 404. 


How to Study Poetry 

noticing him, yet he does not neglect Odysseus, but answers 
him, 'seeing how he was wroth, and took back his saying/^ 
Had he apologized to all, he would have appeared undigni- 
fied and servile, and had he disdained all, arrogant and 
unreasonable. Best of all is the conduct of Diomedes, for 
during the battle he bears in silence the king's abuse, but 
after the battle deals plainly with him, saying, 'My valour 
didst thou blame in chief amid the Danaans/^ 

It is also a good idea to take notice of the difference between 
the ways in which a discreet man and a pompous soothsayer 
addresses a crowd. Thus Calchas, since he lacks a sense 
of the fitness of things, scruples not to denounce the King 
in public as accountable for the plague. But when Nestor 
would conciliate Achilles, in order that before the multitude 
he may not seem to accuse the king of erroneous passion, 
he advises, 'Spread thou a feast for the councilors ; that is 
thy place, and seemly for thee. ... In the gathering of 
many shalt thou listen to him that deviseth the most excellent 
counsel ;** accordingly, after the meal he sends out the elders. 
This last course tends to correct the mistake, but the other 
was an insulting accusation. 

One should notice as well the differences in racial char- 
acteristics. For example, the Trojans rush ferociously to 
battle with savage cries, but the Greeks 'in silence feared 
their captains;'* for to fear officers in the presence of the 
enemy is the mark of heroism and obedience. Wherefore 
Plato was wont to fear reproach and shame more than pains 
and perils, and Cato said that he liked men who blush better 
than those who blanch. Then too, a promise has its own 

'//. iv. 357. '//. ix. 34. Compare comments of Porphyrio, 

Schrader 75. 4 ; Ps.-Plutarch 168. ^ II, ix. 70. 

*//. iv. 431. See Rep. iii. 389 : ' Then would you praise or blame the 
injunction of Diomedes in Homer — 

** Friends, sit still and obey my word (//. iv. 412)," 
and the verses which follow — 

*'The Greeks marched breathing prowess (//. iii. 8.)," 
** In silent awe of their leaders (//. iv. 431)," 
and other sentiments of the same kind ? 
They are good.* 


How to Study Poetry 

peculiar worth; Dolon promises, 'I will go straight to the 
camp, until I may come to the ship of Agamemnon,'^ but 
Diomedes makes no promise, and only says that he will 
fear the less if a companion be sent with him. Hence fore- 
sight is Grecian and civil; rashness, barbaric and rude; the 
one to be emulated, the other to be avoided.* 

It is also not unprofitable to notice the state of mind 
of the Trojans and of Hector, when he and Ajax are about 
to engage ifi single combat. When a great cry went up 
because one of the boxers in the Isthmian games received 
a blow in the face, Aeschylus said, 'See what training does 
for one; the spectators cry out, but the man who was 
struck says not a word !' Likewise, when the poet says that 
the Greeks rejoiced when they saw Ajax approaching 
resplendent with armor, but that *sore trembling came upon 
the Trojans, on the limbs of every man, and Hector's own 
heart beat within his breast,'^ who does not wonder at the 
difference ? The heart of him who risks himself only beats 
inwardly, as of one engaging in a wrestling-match, or rather 
in running a race, while the bodies of the spectators tremble 
and shake in apprehension for the safety of their beloved 
prince.* In the same poet one may observe the difference 
between a very brave man and the worst of knaves, for 
Thersites 'was hateful to Achilles above all and to Odys- 
seus,'** but Ajax, ever friendly to Achilles, says of him to 
Hector, 'Now verily shalt thou well know, man to man, what 
manner of princes the Danaans likewise have among them, 
even after Achilles, render of men, the lion-hearted.'* This 
is a veritable panegyric of Achilles, and is followed by hearty 
commendation of the soldiers in general, 'Yet are we such 
as to face thee, yea, and many of us ;'^ here Ajax does not 
say that he is the best and only champion, but one of many 
able to do battle.® 

* //. X. 325. • Almost the same words occur in Ps. -Plutarch 149. 

«//. vii. 215. * Compare Ps.-Plutarch 135. *//. ii. 220. 

•//. vii. 226. '//. vii. 231. *This sentence closely resembles 

he scholium of Aristarchus. 


How to Study Poetry 

Enough now as to this matter of contrasts, unless we wish 
to add that many a Trojan was taken alive, but not a single 
Greek, and that some of the Trojans begged for mercy, as, 
for example, Adrastus, the sons of Antimachus, and Lycaon, 
and that even Hector besought Achilles for burial, but that 
no one of the Greeks did such a thing; showing that it is 
characteristic of barbarians to bow the suppliant knee on 
the field, but of Greeks to conquer or die. 


As in pastures the bee seeks the flower, the goat seeks the 
bud, the hog the root, and other creatures the fruit and 
seed, so in reading poetr>' one man culls the flowers of 
history, another dwells upon the beauty and the arrange- 
ment of words, as Aristophanes, who says of Euripides, *I 
delight in his imposing rhetoric,'^ and still others — and to 
this class I am now addressing myself — ^are concerned with 
those ideas which strengthen character. Such must be 
made to see how deplorable it is that the lover of fiction 
should allow nothing of novelty and extravagance in narra- 
tive to escape him, and the philologist notice the rhetorical i 
purity of every sentence, but the devotee of honor and virtue, / 
who studies poetry for instruction rather than for pleasure, I 
read with careless indifference writings which commend man- 
liness, temperance, and justice. Take for example the fol- 
lowing : *Tydeus' son, what ails us that we forget our impet- 
uous valor? Nay, come hither, friend, and take thy stand 
by me, for verily it will be shame if Hector of the gleaming 
helm take the ships.'^ For to see a man of preeminent 
wisdom in danger of utter defeat and death, with all his 
companions yet fearing the disgrace and dishonor, but not 
death, will arouse a young man to passionate devotion to 
duty. The following passage, 'And Athene rejoiced in the 
wisdom and judgment of the man,'* shows the author'sj 
sentiment, as he does not make the goddess delight in a man 
of wealth, or of bodily beauty or strength, but in one who 
is wise and just. And when elsewhere she says that she does 

' Frag, 397. ' //. xi. 313. « Odys, iii. 352. 


How to Study Poetry 

not disregard nor desert Odysseus, 'So wary art thou, so 
ready of wit and so prudent,'^ we are told that of all things 
pertaining to us virtue alone is dear to the gods and divine, 
for like attracts like.^ ^ 

To master one's anger not only appears to be a great 
achievement, but is so in reality, yet it is a far greater 
by forethought to guard against anger, lest one be betrayed 
into it or be overpowered by it; therefore it should be 
pointed out to readers in no uncertain way that Achilles, 
a man who is neither patient nor mild, exhorts Priam to 
keep quiet and not provoke him ; 'No longer chafe me, old 
sire; of myself am I minded to give Hector back to thee, 
for there came to me a messenger from Zeus. . . . Lest I 
leave not even thee in peace, old sire, within my hut, albeit 
thou art my suppliant, and lest I transgress the command- 
ment of Zeus/* So he himself washes the body of Hector, 
and, covering it, places it upon the car before the father is 
allowed to see it, so mutilated is it, 'lest he should not refrain 
the wrath at his sorrowing heart when he should look upon 
his son, and lest Achilles' heart be vexed thereat, and he slay 
him and transgress the commandment of Zeus/* 

It is indeed admirable forethought for the man who is 
prone to anger, and of a harsh and hasty disposition, not 
to be unmindful of his weakness, but carefully to guard 
against the causes of anger, vigilantly anticipating them 
by the use of reason, in order not to be betrayed unex- 
pectedly. Likewise, the man who is fond of wine must 
guard against drunkenness, and the passionate man against 
lust, as Agesilaus** did, who would not suffer himself to 
be caressed by a beautiful person who approached him, 
and as Cyrus, who dared not look upon Panthea.® On the 
other hand, those who do not know themselves gather fuel 
for their passions, and are especially hurried on to those 

^ Odys. xiii. 332. 'Eustathius, Comment, adOdyss. 1456. 59, 

expresses the same thought. *//. xxiv. 560. *//. xxiv. 584. 

^ Spartan general and king, who began to reign in 398 B.C. Agesilaus 
made a successful invasion of Asia Minor, and was leader in the wars 
between Sparta and Thebes, when he fought against Epaminondas. 

*Xenophon, Cyropaedia, Seep. m. 


How to Study Poetry 

which are evil and destructive. Now Odysseus not only 
restrains his own wrath, but, seeing from the conversation 
that Telemachus is dangerously wroth with the knaves, allays 
the anger of his son, and manages to quiet and pacify him, 
urging, 'And if they shall evilly entreat me in the house, let 
thy heart harden itself to endure while I am shamefully 
handled, yea even if they drag me by the feet through the 
house to the doors, or cast at me and smite me, still do thou 
bear the sight.'^ Just as horses are not bridled during the 
race, but before it, so those who are very hot-tempered and 
lack self-control should anticipate their temptations, and so 
prepare themselves by reason to meet them.^ 

In interpretation, the etymologies of words are also to 
be noticed with some care, though one must refuse such 
childish fancies as Cleanthes^ suggests, who, in such pas- 
sages as Zcv iraTcplSiytfcv ficSccov {Zeus ruling from Ida),^ and 
Zev 3va AioSwvojU (Zeus, Dodonian King),^ fancifully explains 
that the latter should read, dw&oSowaSc, from dmSoo-is {upward 
giving) y referring to exhalation from the earth, which Zeus 
by metonymy sometimes denotes. Chrysippus® also quibbles 
a good deal, for his etymologies, while not altogether child- 
ish, are improbable, as when he construes cvpixwra KpoviSi;? 
{far-seeing son of Cronos) to mean Zeus's power of 
persuasion and logic. But such discussions are better left 
to the grammarians, while we lay hold instead of those ideas 
which are both profitable and plausible, such as these, 'More- 
over mine own soul forbiddeth me, seeing I have learnt 
ever to be valiant ;'^ and, *for he would be gentle unto all.'® 

* Odys. xvi. 274. ' Self-control was a teaching of the Stoics ; see 

Seneca, De Ira i. 8. i ; 9. i ; 12. 5. 

^ Stoic philosopher and disciple of Zeno, whom he succeeded as head 
of the Stoic school (260 B.C.). *//. iii. 320. *//. xvi. 233. 

•Eminent Stoic philosopher ; born 280 B.C. Chrysippus was a pupil 
of Cleanthes, and was distinguished for his skill in dialectics and his 
subtlety as a disputant. He once said to Cleanthes : * Teach me only 
your doctrines, and I will find the arguments to defend them.* He 
was considered to be the greatest Stoic philosopher except Zeno. 

■»//. vi. 444. Compare Ps. -Plutarch 144. »// xvii. 671. 


Hozv to Study Poetry 

For the poet demonstrates that a manly bearing may be 
acquired, and believes that the ability to converse kindly an<J 
graciously with men comes from experience and attentive 
observation ; therefore, since awkwardness and timidity are 
expressive of boorishness and ignorance, he urges us not 
to be neglectful of ourselves, but to learn nobility from our 
teachers. And the following of Zeus and Poseidon is in 
strict accord with this thought: 'Verily both were of the 
same lineage and the same place of birth, but Zeus was the 
elder and the wiser ;'^ for Homer here argues that wisdom 
(^poi^is) is the most divine and kingly quality, and that 
therein consists the supreme preeminence of Zeus, since it is 
the source of all the other virtues. 

A young man should also become accustomed to give 
vigilant heed to such sentiments as these: 'And he wrill 
not lie to thee, for he is very wise ;'^ ' Antilochus, who once 
wert wise, what thing is this thou hast done? Thou hast 
shamed my skill and made my horses fail ;*' 'Glaukos, where- 
fore hath such an one as thou spoken thus over measure? 
Out on it, I verily thought that thou in wisdom wert above 
all others.'* For a wise man does not lie, nor take an unfair 
advantage in athletic contests, nor bring false accusations 
against another man. And when the poet says that Pan- 
darus was led by his folly to violate the truce, it is evident 
that he believes that a man of wisdom would not do an 
unjust act. 

The like is also taught of self-control in such passages 
as the following, 'Now Proitos' wife, goodly Anteia, lusted 
after him, to have converse in secret love, but no whit pre- 
vailed she, for the uprightness of his heart, on wise Bellero- 
phon ;'*^ 'Verily at the first she would none of the foul deed, 
the fair Clytemnestra, for she had a good understanding ;'• 
for in these the poet represents self-control as resulting 
from wisdom. And when in the instances of hortatory 
addresses during battles he says, 'Shame, ye Lykians, 

*//. xiii. 354. ^Oifys. iii. 20. *//. xxiii. 570. 

*//. xvii. 170. *//. vi. 160. ^Odys, iii. 265. 


How to Study Poetry 

whither do ye flee? Now be ye strong;'^ and 'But let each 
man conceive shame in his heart, and indignation, for verily 
great is the strife that hath arisen;'^ he declares that the 
man of self-control is the brave man, because he is ashamed 
to do a base act, and is able to ignore pleasure, and to 
encounter dangers. In line with this, in the Persae Timo- 
theus spiritedly and well exhorts the Greeks, 'Respect honor 
as the soldier's ally.'* Aeschylus also, in writing of Amphi- 
araus, places it to one's credit not to be puffed up and 
arrogant, nor to lose one's head at the plaudits of the multi- 
tude, 'For his desire is not to seem the bravest, but to be, 
and he reaps in thought the deep furrow, whence grows the 
fruit of good counsel.'* For it is the part of a wise man 
to feel confidence in himself and in his own true worth. 
Since, then, all excellencies are reducible to wisdom, it fol- 
lows that every kind of virtue is a product of reason and 


As the bee instinctively gathers the smoothest and sweet- 
est honey from the most bitter blossoms and the sharpest 
thistles, so, if trained rightly in the poets, boys will learn 
in one way or another to gather something useful and 
profitable from suspiciously vulgar and irrational passages. 
For example, it certainly looks very much as if Agamemnon 
were bribed when he dismisses from the army the rich man 
who presented Aethe to him: 'Her unto Agamemnon did 
Anchises' son Echepolos give in fee, that he might escape 
from following him to windy Ilios and take his pleasure 
at home; for great wealth had Zeus given him.'*^ Yet, 
as Aristotle observes,* he did right in preferring a good 
mare to such a man, because a coward weakling, effem- 
inate through wealth and luxury, is of less worth than 

*//. xvi. 422. '//. xiii. 121. ^Bergk 3. 622. 

* Sept, 579. The translation is after Verrall. 

* //. xxiii. 297. * Probably in the Homeric Questions. 


How to Study Poetry 

a dog, yea, or even an ass. Again it seems most shame- 
ful in Thetis to encourage her son in pleasure, and to 
remind him of the delights of love. But, on the other hand, 
it is well to compare the self-control of Achilles, for, though 
he loves Briseis, who has come back to him, yet because he 
knows that his days here are numbered, he does not hasten to 
the fruition of pleasure ; further he does not mourn for his 
friend by inactivity and neglect of duty, as other men are 
wont, for though in his sorrow he refrains from pleasure, he 
yet busies himself with the affairs of the army. Again, 
Archilochus is not praised because he tries by drinking and 
carousing to dispel his grief for a brother-in-law who had 
been drowned in the sea; yet he offers a plausible excuse: 
'My grief will cure no ill, nor will my pleasure and feasting 
make matters worse. '^ Now if he thought he did no harm 
in following after pleasure and feasting, how shall we do 
worse if we study philosophy, or conduct public affairs, or 
visit the market, or descend to the Academy, or engage in 
husbandry? Wherefore the corrections of Cleanthes and 
Antisthenes^ are not without value. For, seeing the Athe- 
nians in an uproar in the theatre because of these words, 
'What is base save to those who take it so?'* Antisthenes 
straightway objected, 'The base is base, seem it so or not;' 
and Cleanthes, hearing this of wealth, 'To give to one's 
friends and to save one's body when diseased,'* altered it to 
read, 'To give to harlots and to inflame one's body when 
diseased.' Zeno also amended the following of Sophocles, 
'Whoever journeys to a tyrant's house becomes his slave, 
e'en though he entered free,'*^ to 'Nay, not a slave, if really 
free on entering,' meaning by free independent, high-minded, 
and self-respecting. 

' Bergk 2. 387. 

' Eminent Cynic philosopher ; pupil and friend of Socrates, and the 
teacher of Diogenes. * Antisthenes was simple in life, despised riches 
and sensual pleasure, and emphasized practical morality.' 

* Nauck 293 ; Eurip. Frag, 19. 

* Eurip. EUctra 42S. * Nauck 253. 


How to Study Poetry 

Now what hinders us also from making similar emenda- 
tions, in order to influence young men for the better? 
Thus, why not change such a passage as this, 'That man 
is to be envied, who so aims as to hit his wish,'^ to read, 
'who so aims as to hit his advantage?' for to get and have 
things wrongly desired merits pity, not envy. When we 
read this passage, 'Not to all good without a taste of ill 
did Atreus beget thee, Agamemnon; but thou art destined 
both to joy and to grieve,'^ let us much rather say, 'It must 
be thine to rejoice, but not to grieve, if moderate thy 
means, because, "Not to all good, without a taste of ill, did 
Atreus beget thee/" The poet says, 'Alas! 'tis a curse 
sent by the gods on man, to behold the good but accept it 
not;'^ rather, 'It is a brutal, unreasonable, and deplorable 
thing for one who appreciates the better part to be led 
away to the worse through incontinence and effeminacy/ 
Again, 'A speaker influences by character, not by speech;'* 
nay, 'by both character and speech,' or better, 'by character 
through speech,' as does a horseman by the bridle and a 
pilot by the rudder, since virtue has no other instrument so 
pleasing to people as speech nor so fitted by nature to influ- 
ence mankind. This passage, ' "Inclines he more to man 
or woman?" "To each alike, when beauty is present;"'* 
should be altered to read, 'To each alike, when good sense 
is present,' as indicating a finely-balanced nature; for 
the man so greatly influenced by pleasure and youthful 
beauty is weak and unstable. This sentiment, 'The gods 
cause men to fear,'® is by no means true, but rather, 'The 
gods give courage to men,' and fear only to those who 
are senseless, unreasonable, and ungrateful, who are sus- 
picious lest that power which is the origin and first princi- 
ple of every good be injurious. Such then is the character 
of emendation. 

^ Nauck 695. ^Eurip. Iph, AuL 29. * Nauck 449. 

* Meineke iv. 209. * Nauck 288. * Ibid. 695. 



Hoiv to Study Poetry 


A further use to which poetry may be put is well 
explained by Chrysippus, namely, classification or generali- 
zation. For, in saying, 'An ox would not be killed unless 
its neighbor were bad,'^ Hesiod says the same of a dog, 
an ass, or any other animal liable to be lost in the same 
way. Also, the saying of Euripides, 'Who then is a slave 
if he be indifferent to death?'* may be applied to toil or 
to sickness. As when physicians discover the efficacy of 
a drug in curing a case, they assign the drug to all other 
. cases of the same disease, so a universally applicable gen- 
eralization is not to be confined to the one specific thing 
to wjiich it was at first applied, but is to be transferred to 
all other members of the same category,^ and young men 
should become accustomed to recognize the affinities 
between things, and to make such transfers of application 
with insight, exercising and training their perceptive pow- 
ers by constant practice. Thus when Menander says 
'Blessed is he who being and wisdom hath,'* they shotild 
recognize that the like may be said of reputation, of 
authority, and of eloquence. Also, it should be appre- 
ciated that the reproof which Odysseus administers to 
Achilles seated amidst the Scyrian maids, 'Dost thou 
destroy the splendor of thy birth by carding wool, thou, 
sprung from a father noblest of the Greeks?'* could be 
applied to the profligate man, the covetous, the heedless, 
or the ignorant; thus, 'Art thou drunken, thou, sprung 
from a father noblest of the Greeks?' or, 'Dost thou play 
at dice, or strike at quail, or drive a petty trade, or practise 
sordid usury, with no thought for those high things worthy 

* W, and D. 348. « Nauck 523. 

' Such illustrations were much employed by the Stoics ; see Cicero, 
Tusculanae Disputationes iv. 10. 23 : * Hoc loco nimium operae con- 
sumitur a Stoicis, maxime a Chrysippo, dum morbis corporum com 
paratur morborum animi similitudo.' See also Zeller, Gesch, d, Gr, Ph, 
ii. I. 285. 

* Meineke iv. 103. *» Nauck 653. 


How to Study Poetry 

of thy good birth?' When young men read these words: 
'Talk not of wealth; I reverence not a god which even 
the worst of men easily obtains/^ they may infer that 
popular esteem is not to be praised, nor physical beauty, 
nor military cloaks, nor sacerdotal crowns, all of which 
we see to be the possessions of the worst of men. Thus 
when they read, 'Cowardice begets base children,'^ they 
may say, 'Very true, but so does intemperance, super- 
stition, envy, and every other disease/ When Homer, 
using the word best in two connections, says, 'Evil Paris, 
best in form,* and, 'Hector, best in form,'* he is teach- 
ing that one who has in him nothing good save physical 
beauty is worthy of blame and reproach. This sentiment 
should be transferred to like faults, to restrain those who 
are boastful of fictitious excellencies, and to teach youth 
that such expressions as, 'O thou that excellest in wealth,* 
'O thou that excellest in feasting,' 'O thou that excellest 
in servants and flocks,' and, yea, 'O thou that excellest' — 
in everything to the end of the list, imply censure and 
reproach; for one should seek preeminence in good deeds 
and words, to be first in those things which are first, and 
great in those things which are greatest, since reputation 
gained from things small and mean is inglorious and dis- 

Careful observation of instances of censure and praise, 
especially in the works of Homer, will impress this upon us, 
for he is at pains to show that he esteems lightly the advan- 
tages of form and fortune. First of all, in meetings and 
salutations, men do not accost one another as fair, or rich, 
or strong, but use such expressions of esteem as 'Heaven- 
sprung son of Laertes, Odysseus of many devices y^ 'Hector 
son of Priam, peer of Zeus in counsel;'® 'O Achilles, 
Peleus' son, mightest of Achaians far;^ 'Noble son of 

^ Nauck 294 ; Eurip. Aeolus, Frag, 20. * Nauck 695. 

^//. iii. 39 : this rendering and the following are not taken from L., 
L., and M. *//. xvii. 142. 

*//. ii. 173. «//. vii. 47. ■»//. xix. 216. 



How to Study Poetry 

Menoitios, dear to mv heart.'^ And when men censure one 
another, they do not call attention to physical defects, but 
direct their reproaches at errors, as. Thou heavy with 
wine, thou with face of dog and heart of deer;'^ 'Ajax, 
master of railing, ill-counseled;* *Idomeneus, why art thou 
a braggart of old? ... It beseemeth thee not to be a 
braggart;'* *Ajax, thou blundering boaster;'*^ and, lastly, 
Thersites is not reviled by Odysseus for his lameness, nor 
baldness, nor hunched back, but for his reckless babble, 
while the indulgent mother of Hephaestus accosts her son 
by referring to his lameness, *Rise, lame god, O my son.'* 
Thus Homer ridicules those who are ashamed of being 
lame or blind, maintaining that nothing is an object of 
reproach which is not in itself disgraceful, and that nothing 
is disgraceful which is not our own doing, but the gift of 
fortune. Hence two great benefits accrue to the careful 
student of poetry: the one, equanimity, that is, the power 
to keep from unreasonably and viciously casting a man's 
misfortunes in his teeth; the other, magnanimity^ that is, 
the power to resist being cast down or disquieted when 
fortune deals harshly with us, but rather with meekness to 
endure suffering, reproach, and ridicule. This last it is very 
easy to do if one has in mind the saying of Philemon,^ 
'There is no surer proof of a gentle and harmonious spirit 
than the power to endure a railer.'® But if one appear to 
deserve rebuke, let him be attacked for his own errors and 
passions, as Adrastus, the tragic character, who, when 
accosted by Alcmaeon with. Thy sister killed her husband,' 
replied, *Yes, and thou with thine own hand slew the 
mother who bore thee.'® For just as those who lash a 
man's garments do not touch his body, so those who abuse 
a man for his ill fortune or low birth, vainly and foolishly 

1//. xi. 608. 2//. i. 225. 8 //. xxiii. 483. 

*//. xxiii. 474-479. 5//. xiii. 824. «//. xxi. 331. 

'' Comic poet, born about 361 B.C. Philemon was a successful rival 
of Menander, and exerted much influence upon Latin comedy. 
® Meineke iv. 9. * Nauck 695. 


How to Study Poetry 

"work themselves up over mere externalities, without touch- 
ing the soul or those things which really need a sarcastic 


Moreover, just as it is explained above that we should 
thwart and check confidence in coarse and hurtful poems by 
contrasting with them the maxims and sayings of men of 
esteem and of public service, so all refined and helpful sen- 
timents we should nurture and strengthen by examples and 
testimony from philosophy, giving to it the credit of their 
origination.^ This is right and profitable, for one's confi- 
dence in the poems and regard for them is strengthened 
when he discovers that the doctrines of Pythagoras and of 
Plato agree with the words spoken on the stage, or sung 
to the harp, or studied in school, and that the precepts of 
Chilo^ and Bias® accord with the books which children read. 

Wherefore it is of prime importance to teach young men 
that such thoughts as these, which are met with in the 
poets, 'Not unto thee, my child, are given the works of 
war, but follow thou after the loving tasks of wedlock;'* 
and, 'For Zeus would have been wroth with him, if he 
fought with a better man than himself;''^ differ not from 
the precept, 'Know thyself,'® but express the same thought. 
And these again, 'Witless ones, not knowing how much the 
half is greater than the whole ;'^ and, 'Bad counsel is worst 
of all for him who gives it ;'* accord with the maxims which 
Plato expresses in the Gorgias and the Republic, namely, 

^ See Introd, p. 30, on this section. 

* A Spartan enumerated among the Seven Wise Men of Greece. He 
became one of the ephori of Sparta in 556 B.C. Among the maxims 
ascribed to him is, * Know thyself.* 

* Another of the Seven Wise Men, living about 560 B.C. He was dis- 
tinguished for eloquence as well as wisdom. One of his witty sayings 
was, ' I carry all my goods (or riches) with me.* 

* //. v. 428. * //. xi. 543. The same comparisons exist in the 
scholia of Codex B on these passages. * See note 2. 

' W, and D. 40. See also Rep, v. 466 ; Laws 3. 690. ® Ibid. 265. 


How to Study Poetry 

that, 'To be unjust is worse than to suffer injustice;*^ and, 
'To harm is more harmful than to be harmed/* One 
must admit also that the following words of Aeschylus, 
*Be of good cheer, intense pain does not last,** express but 
the famous and oft-quoted maxim of Epicurus, Tain if 
great is brief; if lasting, slight;' and that the one idea 
is stated explicitly by Aeschylus, while the other is only 
its corollary; for if great and intense pain does not last, 
the pain which does last is not great nor hard to bear. 
And wherein do these words of Thespis,* 'Thou seest that 
Zeus is supreme among the gods, because no falsehood, 
no boastful or idle jesting, comes from his lips, and he alone 
knows not pleasure,'*^ differ from the saying of Plato, 'The 
divine nature is seated far from both joy and grief/* 
Again, this saying of Bacchylides,'' 'Virtue keeps its lustre 
untarnished, but wealth associates with worthless men;'* 
and this of Euripides to the same effect, 'I deem nothing 
superior to self-control, since its abiding-place is ever with 
good men;'® and this, 'Should you strive for honor, and 
seek to acquire virtue through riches, among good men 
you would be rated as good for nothing;'^® do they not 
confirm what the philosophers say of wealth and external 
goods, that, unless virtue is present, they are useless and 

For thus to unite and wed poetry to the doctrines of 
philosophy relieves it of its fictitious and illusive quality, 

* Gorgias 473. * See Wjrttenbach, Lexicon Plutarcheum, * Nauck 83. 

* ' Inventor of the Greek tragedy, since he introduced between the 
dithyrambic chorals at the festival of Dionysus an interlocutor, who 
now in monologues, now in dialogues with the leader of the chorus, 
narrated, or gave a mimetic representation of, the incidents to which 
the songs referred.' See Horace, Art of Poetry 276, for a curious pic- 
ture of Thespis strolling from place to place and giving shows from 
his wagon. 

'^ Nauck 647. ^ Epist. iii. 315. 

' One of the nine canonical Greek lyric poets, about 470 B.C. 
Bacchylides was a graceful writer, and a rival of Pindar. 

8 Bergk 3. 580. * Nauck 523. ^^ Ibid. 523. 


How to Study Poetry 

and invests with seriousness its useful passages. More- 
over, it prepares and predisposes the young man's mind to 
the teachings of philosophy, so that he comes to it not 
utterly without taste for it or without knowledge of its 
teachings, not full of the confused notions which he has 
been wont to receive from his mother and his nurse, yea, 
and likely enough from his father and his tutor as well,^ 
esteeming the rich happy and worshipful, dreading death 
and suffering, and holding virtue without riches and fame to 
be unenviable and a mere nothing. For when young men 
brought up in this way hear from the philosophers senti- 
ments contradictory to these, they are alarmed, confused, 
and bewildered, and they do not accept or test them, unless, 
like men accustoming themselves to see the sun on com- 
ing out of great darkness, they become accustomed, in an 
artificial light whose rays blend truth with fiction, to see 
such truths without dislike or repugnance. For having 
heard or read such things as this in poetry, 'Lament 
for him who is bom to the ills of life, but him who 
has died and ended his pain count happy, sending him 
hence with congratulations;'^ or this, *What needs have 
mortals save two alone, the earth for grain, the spring 
for water?'* or this, 'O tyranny, dear to savage men;'* or 
this. The welfare of mortals consists in having the fewest 
possible causes of grief ;'* I say, if such thoughts are known 
to them, they are less disturbed and annoyed when they 
hear from philosophers that, 'Death is nothing to us ;' that, 
'Nature's wealth is limited;' and that, 'Happiness and good 
fortune do not consist in the abundance of riches, in the 
pretentiousness of one's emplo)rment, in sovereignty and 
power, but in freedom from grief, in equanimity, and in a 
mind disposed to conform itself to nature.' 

Wherefore, for these reasons, as well as for the others 
mentioned above, a young man needs to be carefully guided 
in his reading, in order that he may not beforehand be 

1 See Rep. ii. 381. * Nauck 395. * Ibid. 507. 

4 Ibid. 696. » Ibid. 696. 


How to Study Poetry 

prejudiced against philosophy, but rather somewhat in- 
structed in it, and so, by his study of poetry, may be 
advanced to the study of philosophy, in a gracious, friendly, 
and congenial spirit. 



,V "1 



I. Introduction: Out of the abundance of his experience 
the author will advise young men as to the pagan literature, 
showing them what tb accept, and what to reject. 

II. To the Christian the life eternal is the supreme goal, 
and the guide to this life is the Holy Scriptures ; but since 
young men cannot appreciate the deep thoughts contained 
therein, they are to study the profane writings, in which 
truth appears as in a mirror. 

III. Profane learning should ornament the mind, as 
foliage graces the fruit-bearing tree. 

IV. In studying pagan lore one must discriminate 
between the helpful and the injurious, accepting the one, 
but closing one's ears to the siren song of the other. 

V. Since the life to come is to be attained through 
virtue, chief attention must be paid to those passages in 
which virtue is praised; such may be found, for example, 
in Hesiod, Homer, Solon, Theognis, and Prodicus. 

VI. Indeed, almost all eminent philosophers have ex- 
tolled virtue. The words of such men should meet with 
more than mere theoretical acceptance, for one must try to 
realize them in his life, remembering that to seem to be 
good when one is not so is the height of injustice. 

VII. But in the pagan literature virtue is lauded in deeds 
as well as in words, wherefore one should study those 
acts of noble men which coincide with the teachings of the 

VIII. To return to the original thought, young men 
must distinguish between helpful and injurious knowledge, 
keeping clearly in mind the Christian's purpose in life. So, 
like the athlete or the musician, they must bend every 
energy to one task, the winning of the heavenly crown. 

IX. This end is to be compassed by holding the body 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

under, by scorning riches and fame, and by subordinating 
all else to virtue. 

X. While this ideal will be matured later by the study 
of the Scriptures, it is at present to be fostered by the study 
of the pagan writers ; from them should be stored up knowl- 
edge for the future. 

Conclusion : The above are some of the more important 
precepts; others the writer will continue to explain from 
time to time, trusting that no young man will make the 
fatal error of disregarding them. 




Many considerations, young men, prompt me to recom- 
mend to you the principles which I deem most desirable, 
and which I believe will be of use to you if you will 
adopt them. For my time of life, my many-sided train- 
ing, yea, my adequate experience in those vicissitudes 
of life which teach their lessons at every turn,* have 
so familiarized me with human affairs, that I am able to 
map out the safest course for those just starting upon their 
careers. By nature's common bond I stand in the same 
relationship to you as your parents, so that I am no whit 
behind them in my concern for you. Indeed, if I do not 
misinterpret your feelings, you no longer crave your parents 
when you come to me. Now if you should receive my 
words with gladness, you would be in the second class of 
those who, according to Hesiod, merit praise; if not, I 
should say nothing disparaging, but no doubt you your- 
selves would remember the passage in which that poet says : 
*He is best who, of himself, recognizes what is his duty, 
and he also is good who follows the course marked out by 
others, but he who does neither of these things is of no use 
under the sun.'^ 

Do not be surprised if to you, who go to school every day, 
and who, through their writings, associate with the learned 
men of old,* I say that out of my own experience I have 

* See Newman, Historical Sketches, vol. ii. chaps, i. and ii, for an 
account of the trials and labors of St. Basil. Also see Fialon, Bio- 
graphic de St. BasiiCy and Wace and Schaff, Select Library of Nicene and 
Post-Nicene Father Sy vol. viii, Prolegomena. 

» W. and D. 285 ff. 

' See Introd. p. 28, on the education of Greek youth. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

evolved something more useful. Now this is my counsel, 
that you should not unqualifiedly give over your minds 
to these men, as a ship is surrendered to the rudder, to 
follow whither they list, but that, while receiving whatever 
of value they have to offer, you yet recognize what it is 
wise to ignore. Accordingly, from this point on I shall 
take up and discuss the pagan writings, and how we are 
to discriminate among them. 


We Christians, young men, hold that this human life is 
not a supremely precious thing, nor do we recognize any- 
thing as imconditionally a blessing which benefits us in 
this life only.^ Neither pride of ancestry, nor bodily 
strength, nor beauty, nor greatness, nor the esteem of all 
men, nor kingly authority, nor, indeed, whatever of human 
affairs may be called great, do we consider worthy of 
desire, or the possessors of them as objects of envy; but 
we place our hopes upon the things which are beyond, and 
in preparation for the life eternal do all things that we do. 
Accordingly, whatever helps us towards this we say that 
we must love and follow after with all our might, but those 
things which have no bearing upon it should be held as 
naught. But to explain what this life is, and in what way 
and manner we shall live it, requires more time than is at 
our command, and more mature hearers than you. 

And yet, in saying thus much, perhaps I have made it suf- 
ficiently clear to you that if one should estimate and gather 
together all earthly weal from the creation of the world, 
he would not find it comparable to the smallest part of the 
possessions of heaven; rather, that all the precious things 
in this life fall further short of the least good in the other 
than the shadow or the dream fails of the reality. Or 
rather, to avail myself of a still more natural comparison, by 

' See Col. iii. 2 : * Set your affections on things above, not on things 
on the earth.' 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

as much as the soul is superior to the body in all things, 
by so much is one of these lives superior to the other.^ 

Into the life eternal the Holy Scriptures lead us, which 
teach us through divine words. But so long as our 
immaturity forbids our understanding their deep thought, 
we exercise our spiritual perceptions upon profane writ- 
ings, which are not altogether different, and in which 
we perceive the truth as it were in shadows and in mir- 
rors. Thus we imitate those who perform the exercises 
of military practice, for they acquire skill in gymnastics and 
in dancing, and then in battle reap the reward of their 
training. We must needs believe that the greatest of all 
battles lies before us, in preparation for which we must do 
and suffer all things to gain power. Consequently we must 
be conversant with poets, with historians, with orators, 
indeed with all men who may further our soul's salvation. 
Just as dyers prepare the cloth before they apply the dye, 
be it purple or any other color, so indeed must we also, if 
we would preserve indelible the idea of the true virtue, 
become first initiated in the pagan lore, then at length 
give special heed to the sacred and divine teachings, even 
as we first accustom ourselves to the sun's reflection in 
the water, and then become able to turn our eyes upon the 
very sun itself.^ 


If, then, there is any affinity between the two literatures, 
a knowledge of them should be useful to us in our search 
for truth; if not, the comparison, by emphasizing the con- 
trast, will be of no small service in strengthening our regard 
for the better one. With what now may we compare these 
two kinds of education to obtain a simile? Just as it is 
the chief mission of the tree to bear its fruit in its season, 

' See Rep. x. 614 : * And yet, I said, all these things are as nothing, 
either in number or greatness, in comparison with those other recom- 
penses which await both just and unjust after death, which are more 
and greater far.* 'See p. 95. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

though at the same time it puts forth for ornament the 
leaves which quiver on its boughs, even so the real fruit 
of the soul is truth, yet it is not without advantage for it 
to embrace the pagan wisdom, as also leaves offer shelter 
to the fruit, and an appearance not untimely. That Moses, 
whose name is a synonym for wisdom, severely trained 
his mind in the learning of the Egyptians,^ and thus 
became able to appreciate their deity.^ Similarly, in later 
days, the wise Daniel is said to have studied the lore of the 
Qialdaeans while in Babylon,^ and after that to have taken 
up the sacred teachings. 


Perhaps it is sufficiently demonstrated that such heathen 
learning is not unprofitable for the soul; I shall then dis- 
cuss next the extent to which one may pursue it. To begin 
with the poets, since their writings are of all degrees of 
excellence, you should not study all of their poems without 
omitting a single word. When they recount the words 
and deeds of good men, you should both love and imitate 
them, earnestly emulating such conduct. But when they 
portray base conduct, you must flee from them and stop up 
your ears, as Odysseus is said to have fled past the song of 
the sirens,* for familiarity with evil writings paves the 
way for evil deeds. Therefore the soul must be guarded 
with great care, lest through our love for letters it receive 
some contamination unawares, as men drink in poison with 
honey. We shall not praise the poets when they scoff and 
rail, when they represent fornicators and winebibbers, when 
they define blissfulness by groaning tables and wanton 
songs. Least of all shall we listen to them when they 
tell us of their g(5ds, and especially when they represent 
them as being many, and not at one among themselves.* 
For, among these gods, at one time brother is at variance 
with brother, or the father with his children; at another, 

* Acts vii. 22. ' ovTU npoaeWelv ry deapi^ tow "Ovrof. 

'Daniel i. 3 fF. *See p. 51; Basil, Epist. i. ^See p. 64, and notes. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

the children engage in truceless war against their parents. 
The adulteries of the gods and their amours, and especially 
those of the one whom they call Zeus, chief of all and most 
high, things of which one cannot speak, even in connection 
with brutes, without blushing, we shall leave to the stage. 
I have the same words for the historians, and especially 
when they make up stories for the amusement of their 
hearers. And certainly we shall not follow the example 
of the rhetoricians in the art of lying. For neither in the 
courts of justice nor in other business affairs will falsehood 
be of any help to us Christians, who, having chosen the 
straight and true path of life, are forbidden by the gospel 
to go to law. But on the other hand we shall receive gladly 
those passages in which they praise virtue or condemn vice. 
For just as bees know how to extract honey from flowers, 
which to men are agreeable only for their fragrance and 
color, even so here also those who look for something 
more than pleasure and enjoyment in such writers may 
derive profit for their souls. Now, then, altogether after 
the manner of bees must we use these writings, for the bees 
do not visit all the flowers without discrimination, nor 
indeed do they seek to carry away entire those upon 
which they light, but rather, having taken so much as is 
adapted to their needs, they let the rest go. So we, 
if wise, shall take from heathen books whatever befits us 
and is allied to the truth, and shall pass over the rest. And 
just as in culling roses we avoid the thorns, from such 
writings as these we will gather everything useful, and guard 
against the noxious.^ So, from the very beginning, we 
must examine each of their teachings, to harmonize it with 
our ultimate purpose, according to the Doric proverb, 'test- 
ing each stone by the measuring-line.'^ 

* The general attitude taken here toward selectiveness in reading is 
Platonic ; see, for instance, frequent passages in the Laws ii, iii, and 
vii, and the Republic iii. 

* rhv T^ov TT^ri tov air&fyrov dyovrag, Maloney notes that St. Gregory 
Nazianzen cites this proverb in Letter xxxviii, and St. John Chrysostom 
in Homily xxv. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 


Since we must needs attain to the life to come through 
virtue, our attention is to be chiefly fastened upon those 
many passages from the poets, from the historians, and 
especially from the philosophers, in which virtue itself is 
praised. For it is of no small advantage that virtue become 
a habit with a youth,^ for the lessons of youth make a 
deep impression, because the soul is then plastic, and there- 
fore they are likely to be indelible. If not to incite youth to 
virtue, pray what meaning may we suppose that Hesiod 
had in those universally admired lines,^ of which the senti- 
ment is as follows: 'Rough is the start and hard, and the 
way steep, and full of labor and pain, that leads toward 
virtue. Wherefore, on account of the steepness, it is not 
granted to every man to set out, nor, to the one having set 
out, easily to reach the summit. But when he has reached 
the top, he sees that the way is smooth and fair, easy and 
light to the foot, and more pleasing than the other, which 
leads to wickedness,'— of which the same poet said that 
one may find it all around him in great abundance.' Now 
it seems to me that he had no other purpose in saying 
these things than so to exhort us to virtue, and so to incite 
us to bravery, that we may not weaken our efforts before 
we reach the goal. And certainly if any other man praises 
virtue in a like strain, we will receive his words with pleas- 
ure, since our aim is a common one. 

Now as I have heard from one skilful in interpreting the 
mind of a poet,* all the poetry of Homer is a praise of 

^ Plato frequently touches upon the value of habit in the Laws vii, and 
the Republic ii. 

' W, and D. 285 fF. Plato refers to this same passage in the Repub- 
lic ii. 364. * Ibid. 287. 

*Libanius, b. at Antioch in 314 ; studied at Athens, but acquired his 
education principally by private study of the old Greek writers, whom 
he often imitated with success, and for whom he always showed great 
enthusiasm. During the first part of his career as a teacher at Constan- 
tinople, he was very popular, and St. Basil was then among his stu- 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

virtue, and with him all that is not merely accessory tends 
to this end. There is a notable instance of this where 
Homer first made the princess reverence the leader of the 
Cephallenians, though he appeared naked, shipwrecked, and 
alone, and then made Odysseus as completely lack embarrass- 
ment, though seen naked and alone, since virtue served him 
as a garment. And next he made Odysseus so much 
esteemed by the other Phaeacians that, abandoning the 
luxury in which they lived, all admired and emulated him, 
and there was not one of them who longed for anything else 
except to be Odysseus, even to the enduring of shipwreck.^ 
The interpreter of the poetic mind argued that, in this 
episode. Homer very plainly says: *Be virtue your con- 
cern, O men, which both swims to shore with the ship- 
wrecked man, and makes him, when he comes naked to 
the strand, more honored than the prosperous Phaeacians/ 
And, indeed, this is the truth, for other possessions belong 
to the owner no more than to another, and, as when men 
are dicing, fall now to this one, now to that. But virtue is 
the only possession that is sure, and that remains with us 
whether living or dead. Wherefore it seems to me that 
Solon^ had the rich in mind when he said: *We will not 
exchange our virtue for their gold, for virtue is an ever- 
lasting possession, while riches are ever changing owners.' 
Similarly Theognis^ said that the god, whatever he might 

dents. ' His idol was Greek style, and for his time he had rare success 
in mastering the secrets of Greek expression. A pagan born and bred, 
he was an ardent admirer of the Emperor Julian, but his devotion to the 
Apostate did not prevent him from associating on terms of affectionate 
intimacy with St. Chrysostom and St. Basil ; for he was above all a 
rhetorician, and his tolerant attitude toward Christianity, so far as it did 
not interfere with the study of the Greek classics and the attainment of 
excellence in Greek composition, may be explained by his shallow 
cleverness as well as by his easy temper.' See p. 34. 

* See Odys, vi. and vii., and also p. 76, for Plutarch's comment on this 

* The great Athenian law-giver. In the tract, How One may Profit by 
One's Enemies^ Plutarch attributes these lines to Solon, but they occur 
among the Gnomes of Theognis, 316-318. See also Plutarch, Life of 
Solon. ' See p. 54. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

mean by the god, inclines the balances for men, now this 
way, now that, giving to some riches, and to others poverty.^ 
Also Prodicus, the sophist of Ceos,* whose opinion we must 
respect, for he is a man not to be slighted, somewhere in 
his writings expressed similar ideas about virtue and vice. 
I do not remember the exact words, but as far as I recollect 
the sentiment, in plain prose it ran somewhat as follows: 
While Hercules was yet a youth, being about your age, as he 
was debating which path he should choose, the one lead- 
ing through toil to virtue, or its easier alternate, two 
women appeared before him, who proved to be Virtue 
and Vice. Though they said not a word, the difference 
between them was at once apparent from their mien. The 
one had arranged herself to please the eye, while she 
exhaled charms, and a multitude of delights swarmed in 
her train. With such a display, and promising still more, 
she sought to allure Hencules to her side. The other, 
wasted and squalid, looked fixedly at him, and bespoke 
quite another thing. For she promised nothing easy or 
engaging, but rather infinite toils and hardships, and perils 
in every land and on every sea. As a reward for these 
trials, he was to become a god, so our author has it. The 
latter, Hercules at length followed.' 


Almost all who have written upon the subject of wisdom 
have more or less, in proportion to their several abilities, 
extolled virtue in their writings. Such men must one obey, 
and must try to realize their words in his life. For he, who 
by his works exemplifies the wisdom which with others is 

' Gnomes 157-158. 

* *A celebrated sophist of the fifth century, B.C. He was accustomed 
to travel through Greece, delivering lectures for money. He paid 
special attention to the correct use of words. Although severely criti- 
cised by the other sophists, he is mentioned with respect by Xenophon 
and Plato, the former of whom has preserved, in The Choice of Her- 
culesj the story here used by St. Basil.' ^ See Xenophon, Memorab. 

ii. I. 22 ; Cicero, De Off, i. 32 ; Chrysostom, Regnum ; Lucian, Somnium, 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

a matter of theory alone, 'breathes; all others flutter about 
like shadows.'^ I think it is as if a painter should represent 
some marvel of manly beauty, and the subject should 
actually be such a man as the artist pictures on the canvas. 
To praise virtue in public with brilliant words and with 
long drawn out speeches, while in private preferring pleas- 
ures to temperance, and self-interest to justice, finds an 
analogy on the stage, for the players frequently appear as 
kings and rulers, though they are neither, nor perhaps even 
genuinely free men. A musician would hardly put up with 
a lyre which was out of tune, nor a choregus with a chorus 
not singing in perfect harmony. But every man is divided 
against himself who does not make his life conform to his 
words, but who says with Euripides, 'The mouth indeed 
hath sworn, but the heart knows no oath.'^ Such a man 
will seek the appearance of virtue rather than the reality. 
But to seem to be good when one is not so, is, if we are 
to respect the opinion of Plato' at all, the very height of 


After this wise, then, are we to receive those words from 
the pagan authors which contain suggestions of the virtues. 
But since also the renowned deeds of the men of old either 
are preserved for us by tradition, or are cherished in the 
pages of poet or historian, we must not fail to profit by 
them. A fellow of the street rabble once kept taunting 
Pericles, but he, meanwhile, gave no heed; and they held 
out all day, the fellow deluging him with reproaches, but 
he, for his part, not caring. Then when it was evening 
and dusk, and the fellow still clung to him, Pericles escorted 
him with a light, in order that he might not fail in the 

^ Odys. X. 495. 

^ Hippolyius 612; see Cicero, De Off, 3. 29. 108: *Juravi lingua, 
mentem injuratam gero.* 

^ Rep. ii, 361 ; see Cicero, De Off. i. 13. 41 : *Totius autem injustitiae 
nulla capitalior est quam eorum qui quum maxime fallunt, id agunt, ut 
viri boni esse videantur;* Plutarch, Flatterer and Friend ^, 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

practice of philosophy.^ Again, a man in a passion threat- 
ened and vowed death to Euclid of Megara,^ but he in turn 
vowed that the man should surely be appeased, and cease 
from his hostility to him. 

How invaluable it is to have such examples in mind 
when a man is seized with anger ! On the other hand, one 
must altogether ignore the tragedy which says in so many 
words : 'Anger arms the hand against the enemy ;'* for it is 
much better not to give way to anger at all. But if such 
restraint is not easy, we shall at least curb our anger by 
reflection, so as not to give it too much rein. 

But let us bring our discussion back again to the exam- 
ples of noble deeds. A certain man once kept striking* 
Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, in the face, yet he did 
not resent it, but allowed ftdl play to the rufiian's anger, 
so that his face was swollen and bruised from the blows. 
Then when he stopped striking him, Socrates did nothing 
more than write on his forehead, as an artisan on a statue, 
who did it, and thus took out his revenge. Since these 
examples almost coincide with our teachings, I hold that 
such men are worthy of emulation. For this ccmduct of 
Socrates is akin to the precept that to him who smites you 
upon the one cheek, you shall turn the other also*— thus 
much may you be avenged; the conduct of Pericles and of 
Euclid also conforms to the precept: 'Submit to those who 
persecute you, and endure their wrath with meekness ;'** and 
to the other: Tray for your enemies and curse them not'* 
One who has been instructed in the pagan examples will no 
longer hold the Christian precepts impracticable. But I 
will not overlook the conduct of Alexander, who, on taking 
captive the daughters of Darius, who were reputed to be 
of surpassing beauty, would not even look at them, for he 
deemed it unworthy of one who was a conqueror of men 

* See Plutarch, Lt/e of Pericles v, from which the story is taken. 

'See Plutarch, Concerning the Cure of Anger 14, 

' Sommer notes that St. Basil has not quoted Euripides correctly ; St. 
Basil reads : 'Btt* kjfiptybq Ovfibg ^Xl^ei x^P^\ but Euripides: 'AirAot^f hr 
kxOpolc 6ir^^£iv x^pct' *Matt. v. 39. •Ibid. v. 44. •Ibid. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

to be a slave to women.^ This is of a piece with the state- 
ment that he who looks upon a woman to lust after her, 
even though he does not commit the act of adultery, is not 
free from its guilt, since he has entertained impure thoughts.^ 
It is hard to believe that the action of Cleinias,^ one of the 
disciples of Pythagoras, was in accidental conformity to our 
teachings, and not designed imitation of them. What, then, 
was this act of his? By taking an oath he could have 
avoided a fine of three talents, yet rather than do so he paid 
the fine, though he could have sworn truthfully. I am in- 
clined to think that he had heard of the precept which for- 
bids us to swear.* 


But let us return to the same thought with which we 
started, namely, that we should not accept everything with- 
out discrimination, but only what is useful. For it would 
be shameful should we reject injurious foods, yet should 
take no thought about the studies which nourish our souls, 
but as a torrent should sweep along all that came near 
our path and appropriate it. If the helmsman does not 
blindly abandon his ship to the winds, but guides it toward 
the anchorage ; if the archer shoots at his mark ; if also the 
metal-worker or the carpenter seeks to produce the objects 
for which his craft exists, would there be rime or reason 
in our being outclassed by these men, mere artisans as they 
are, in quick appreciation of our interests? For is there not 
some end in the artisan's work, is there not a goal in human 
life, which the one who would not wholly resemble unrea- 
soning animals must keep before him in all his words and 
deeds? If there were no intelligence sitting at the tiller of 
our souls, like boats without ballast we should be borne 
hither and thither through life, without plan or purpose. 

An analogy may be found in the athletic contests, or, if 

* See Plutarch, 0/ the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Great ii. 
6 and 12 ; Life of Alexander ; Arrian, Exped, of Alex. ii. 12. The same 
story is told of Cyrus in the Cyropaedia. See p. 84. 

' Matt. V. 28. * A contemporary and friend of Plato. 

*Lev. xix. 12, or Deut. v. 11. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

you will, in the musical contests; for the contestants pre- 
pare themselves by a preliminary training for those events in 
which wreaths of victory are offered, and no one by training 
for wrestling or for the pancratium would get ready to play 
the lyre or the flute. At least Polydamas^ would not, for 
before the Olympic games he was wont to bring the rushing 
chariot to a halt, and thus hardened himself. Then Milo^ 
could not be thrust from his smeared shield, but, shoved as 
he was, clung to it as firmly as statues soldered by lead. In a 
word, by their training they prepared themselves for the 
contests. If they had meddled with the airs of Marsyas 
or of Olympus, the Phrygians,* abandoning dust and exer- 
cise, would they have won ready laurels or crowns, or 
would they have escaped being laughed at for their bodily 
incapacity? On the other hand, certainly Timotheus the 
musician* did not spend his time in the schools for wrest- 
ling, for then it would not have been his to excel all in 
music, he who was so skilled in his art that at his pleasure 
he could arouse the passions of men by his harsh and 
vehement strains, and then by gentle ones, quiet and soothe 
them. By this art, when once he played Phrygian airs on 
the flute to Alexander, he is said to have incited the general 
to arms in the midst of feasting, and then, by milder 
music, to have restored him to his carousing friends.* Such 
power to compass one's end, either in music or in athletic 
contests, is developed by practice. 

I have called to mind the wreaths and the fighters. These 

^ ' Of Scotussa, conquered in the Pancratium at the Olympic games in 
Ol. 93, B.C. 408. His size was immense, and the most marvelous stories 
are related of his strength, how he killed without arms a huge and fierce 
lion on Mount Olympus, etc' See Pausanias vi. 5 ; Persius i. 4. 

* Of Crotona. He was six times victor in wrestling at the Olympic 
games, and as often at the Pythian. He is said to have carried a four- 
year-old heifer on his shoulders through the stadium at Olympia, and 
then to have eaten the whole of it in a single day. See Pausanias vi. 14. 

* Olympus was the pupil of Marsyas, Schol. in Aristoph Eq, 9 ; see 
also Plutarch, Concerning Music 11; Arist., Pol, viii. 5. 6. 

* A celebrated flute-player of Thebes. 

* See Plutarch, Of the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Great ii. 2; 
Cicero, Legg, 2. 12; Dryden, Alexander's Feast, 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

men endure hardships beyond number, they use every 
means to increase their strength, they sweat ceaselessly at 
their training, they accept many blows frOTi the master, 
they adopt the mode of life which he prescribes, though it 
is most unpleasant, and, in a word, they so rule all their 
conduct that their whole life before the contest is prepara- 
tory to it. Then they strip themselves for the arena, and 
endure all and risk all, to receive the crown of olive, or of 
parsley, or some other branch, and to be announced by the 
herald as victor.^ 

Will it then be possible for us, to whom are held out 
rewards so wondrous in number and in splendor that tongue 
can not recount them, while we are fast asleep and leading 
care-free lives, to make these our own by half-hearted efforts ? 
Surely, were an idle life a very commendable thing, Sardana- 
palus* would take the first prize, or Margites* if you will, 
whom Homer, if indeed the poem is by Homer, put down as 
neither a farmer, nor a vine-dresser, nor anything else that 
is useful. Is there not rather truth in the maxim of Pitta- 
cus* which says, 'It is hard to be good?'* For after we have 

' See I Cor. ix. 24-27. 

' 'According to an inaccurate classical tradition, the last king of Assy- 
ria. He was noted for effeminacy and voluptuousness, and in order to 
escape falling into the hands of the besiegers of Nineveh, ended his 
worthless life by burning himself in his palace. It seems certain that 
the original of Sardanapalus is Asshurbanipal, King of Assyria, 668- 
626 B.C.* 

'The Margites^ a poem which is lost, and which ridiculed a man who 

was said to know many things, and who knew all badly, was frequently 

ascribed by the ancients to Homer, but is of later date. According to 

St. Clement of Alexandria, these are the verses of which St. Basil 

speaks : 

Tdv (T (At hp axairr^pa deol Oiaav, <Ayf dpor^pa, 

0(yr dXXug ri awffdv • vdatf^ iT fjfjiAfyrave rkxytK- 

* Whom the gods made neither a delver, nor a ploughman, 
Nor any other useful thing, but deprived of every craft.* 

* One of the Seven Wise Men of Greece ; b. at Mjrtilene in Lesbos, 
652 B.C. In 589 P. was chosen aesymnetes (ruler with absolute 
power), which office he filled for ten years. Of his acts as a ruler noth- 
ing is known ; of his elegiac poems, a few lines are preserved. 

^ This maxim is preserved in the title of an ode of Simonides, see 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

actually endured many hardships, we shall scarcely gain 
those blessings to which, as said above, nothing in human 
experience is comparable. Therefore we must not be light- 
minded, nor exchange our immortal hopes for momentary 
idleness, lest reproaches come upon us, and judgment befall 
us, not forsooth here among men, although judgment here 
is no easy thing for the man of sense to bear, but at the bar 
of justice, be that under the earth, or wherever else it may 
happen to be. While he who unintentionally violates his 
obligations perchance receives some pardon from God, he 
who designedly chooses a life of wickedness doubtless has 
a far greater punishment to endure. 


'What then are we to do?' perchance some one may ask. 
What else than to care for the soul, never leaving an idle 
moment for other things? Accordingly, we ought not to 
serve the body any more than is absolutely necessary, but 
we ought to do our best for the soul, releasing it from 
the bondage of fellowship with the bodily appetites; at the 
same time we ought to make the body superior to passion. 
We must provide it with the necessary food, to be sure, but 
not with delicacies, as those do who seek everywhere for 
waiters and cooks, and scour both earth and sea, like those 
bringing tribute to some stem tyrant. This is a despicable 
business, in which are endured things as unbearable as the 
torments of hell, where wool is combed into the fire, or 
water is drawn in a sieve and poured into a perforated jar, 
and where work is never done.^ Then to spend more time 
than is necessary on one's hair and clothes is, in the words 
of Diogenes, the part of the unfortunate or of the sinful. 
For what difference does it make to a sensible man whether 
he is clad in a robe of state or in an inexpensive garment, 

Bergk 747, and Plato indulges in a sophistical discussion of the ode 
in Protagoras 338. See also Arist. PoL iii. 14. 9 ; Diog. Laert i. 4. 
J See p. 55. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

so long as he is protected from heat and cold? Likewise 
in other matters we must be governed by necessity, and 
only give so much care to the body as is beneficial to the 
soul. For to one who is really a man it is no less a dis- 
grace to be a fop or a pamperer of the body than to be the 
victim of any other base passion. Indeed, to be very zeal- 
ous in making the body appear very beautiful is not the 
mark of a man who knows himself, or who feels the force of 
the wise maxim : 'Not that which is seen is the man,'^ for it 
requires a higher faculty for any one of us, whoever he 
may be, to know himself. Now it is harder for the man 
who is not pure in heart to gain this knowledge than for a 
blear-eyed person to look upon the sun. 

To speak generally and so far as your needs demand, 
purity of soul embraces these things: to scorn sensual 
pleasures, to refuse to feast the eyes on the senseless antics 
of buffoons, or on bodies which goad one to passion, and 
to close one's ears to songs which corrupt the mind. For 
passions which are the offspring of servility and baseness 
are produced by this kind of music.^ On the other hand, 
we must employ that class of music which is better in itself 
and which leads to better things, which David, the sacred 
psalmist, is said to have used to assuage the madness of 
the king.^ Also tradition has it that when Pythagoras 
happened upon some drunken revelers, he commanded the 
flute-player, who led the merry-making, to change the tune 
and to play a Doric air, and that the chant so sobered 
them that they threw down their wreaths, and shamefacedly 
returned home.* Others at the sound of the flute*^ rave 
like Corybantes and Bacchantes. Even so great a differ- 

* Perhaps Ps. -Plato, Axiochus 365 ; cf. the Bohn tr. of Plato 6. 43 ; 
Cicero, Somn, Scip. 8 ; Lactantius, Div, Inst, ii. 3. 8. 

'See Plato, Rep. iii, 398 flf., for a discussion of the moral effects of 
the different modes. 
3 I Sam. xvi. 14-23. 

* Among the Pythagoreans great importance was attached to the 
influence of music in controlling the passions ; see Porphyry, Life 
of Pythagoras 30. 

^ In Rep. iii. 399, Plato puts flute-players out of his ideal society. 



The Right Use of Greek Literature 

ence does it make whether one lends his ear to healthy 
or to vicious music. Therefore you ought to have still 
less to do with the music of such influence than with other 
infamous things. Then I am ashamed to forbid you to 
load the air with all kinds of sweet-smelling perfumes, or 
to smear yourselves with ointment. Again, what further 
argtunent is needed against seeking the gratification of one's 
appetite than that it compels those who pursue it, like 
animals, to make of their bellies a god?^ 

In a word, he who would not bury himself in the mire 
of sensuality must deem the whole body of little worth, or 
must, as Plato puts it, pay only so much heed to the body 
as is an aid to wisdom,* or as Paul admonishes sc«newhere 
in a similar passage: 'Let no one make provision for the 
flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.'* Wherein is there any 
difference between those who take pains that the body shall 
be perfect, but ignore the soul, for the use of which it is 
designed, and those who are scrupulous about their tools, 
but neglectful of their trade? On the contrary, one ought 
to discipline the flesh and hold it under, as a fierce animal 
is controlled, and to quiet, by the lash of reason, the unrest 
which it engenders in the soul, and not, by g^iving full 
rein to pleasure, to disregard the mind, as a charioteer is 
run away with by unmanageable and frenzied horses. So 
let us bear in mind the remark of Pythagoras, who, upon 
learning that one of his followers was growing very fleshy 
from gymnastics and hearty eating, said to him, 'Will you 
not stop making your imprisonment harder for yourself?'* 
Then it is said that since Plato foresaw the dangerous 
influence of the body, he chose an unhealthy part of Athens 
for his Academy, in order to remove excessive bodily com- 
fort, as one prunes the rank shoots of the vines. Indeed I 
have even heard physicians say that over-healthiness is 

» See Phil. Hi. 19. ' See lifp. iii. 403-412. »Rom. xiii. 14. 

* The plain living of the P3rthagoreans is discussed and illustrated in 
Porphyry, Life of Pythagoras 32, 34, and lamblichus, Life of Pytha- 
goras 96, 98. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

<z3angerous. Since, then, this exaggerated care of the body 
is harmful to the body itself, and a hindrance to the soul, 
it is sheer madness to be a slave to the body, and serve it. 

If we were minded to disregard attention to the body, we 
should be in little danger of prizing anything else unduly. 
IFor of what use, now, are riches, if one scorns the pleasures 
of the flesh? I certainly see none, unless, as in the case 
of the mythological dragons, there is some satisfaction in 
guarding hidden treasure. Of a truth, one who had 
learned to be independent of this sort of thing would be 
loath to attempt anything mean or low, either in word or 
deed. For superfluity, be it Lydian gold-dust,^ or the 
work of the gold-gathering ants,^ he would disdain in pro- 
portion to its needlessness, and of course he would make 
the necessities of life, not its pleasures, the measure of 
need. Forsooth, those who exceed the bounds of neces- 
sity, like men who are sliding down an inclined plane, can 
nowhere gain a footing to check their precipitous flight, for 
the more they can scrape together, so much or even more 
do they need for the gratification of their desires. As 
Solon,* the son of Execestides, puts it, *No definite limit is 
set to a man's wealth.'* Also, one should hear Theognis,** 
the teacher, on this point: 'I do not long to be rich, nor do 
I pray for riches, but let it be given me to live with a little, 
suffering no ill.'® 

I also admire the wholesale contempt of all human posses- 
sions which Diogenes expressed, who showed himself richer 
than the great Persian king, since he needed less for living. 
But we are wont to be satisfied with nothing save with the 

* The golden sands of the Pactolus, a small river in Lydia, were pro- 
verbial, for this river was one of the sources of Lydia's wealth. 

* Cf. Herod, iii. 102 ; Jacobs on Aelian, Nat, Animal, iv. 27. 
' See p. 107. 

* Bergk 327. * See p. 54- 

* Bergk ii. 218; compare Proverbs xxx. 8 : *Give me neither poverty 
nor riches ; feed me with food convenient for me.* 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

talents of the Mysian Pythius,^ with limitless acres of land, 
and more herds of cattle than may be counted. Yet I believe 
that if riches fail us we should not mourn for them, and if we 
have them, we should not think more of possessing them 
than of using them rightly. For Socrates expressed an 
admirable thought when he said that a rich, purse-proud 
man was never an object of admiration with him until he 
learned that the man knew how to use his wealth. If 
Phidias and Polycletus* had been very proud of the gold 
and ivory with which the one constructed the statue of the 
Jupiter of Elis, the other the Juno of Argos, they would 
have been laughed at, because priding themselves in treas- 
ure produced by no merit of theirs, and overlooking their 
art, from which the gold gained greater beauty and worth. 
Then shall we think that we are open to less reproach if we 
hold that virtue is not, in and of itself, a sufficient ornament ? 
Again, shall we, while manifestly ignoring riches and 
scorning sensual pleasures, court adulation and fulsome 
praise, vying with the fox of Archilochus^ in cunning and 
craft? Of a truth there is nothing which the wise man must 
more guard against than the temptation to live for praise, and 
to study what pleases the crowd. Rather truth should be 
made the guide of one's life, so that if one must needs speak 
against all men, and be in ill-favor and in^danger for virtue's 
sake, he shall not swerve at all from that which he con- 
siders right; else how shall we say that he differs from the 
Egyptian sophist, who at pleasure turned himself into a tree, 

^ A Lydian of great wealth, which he derived from his gold mines in 
the neighborhood of Celaenae, in Phrygia. When Xerxes arrived at 
Celaenae, P)rthius banqueted him and his whole army (Herod, vii. 

' A statuary of the fifth century, and a pupil of Phidias. His statue 
of the Spear-bearer was studied by other artists as containing the canon 
with respect to the proportions of the human body. 

* Poet, ranked by ancients as second only to Homer, flourished 650 
B.C. He was a master in odes, in elegies, and in fables, but his great 
and formidable gift lay in satire. See Rep, ii. 365 : * Around and about 
me I will draw the simple garb of virtue, but behind I will trail the 
subtle and crafty fox, as Archilochus, first of sages, counsels.* 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

an animal, fire, water, or anything else?^ Such a man now 
praises justice to those who esteem it, and now expresses 
opposite sentiments when he sees that wrong is in good 
repute; this is the fawner's trick. Just as the polypus is 
said to take the color of the ground upon which it lies, so 
he conforms his opinions to those of his associates. 



To be sure, we shall become more intimately acquainted 
with these precepts in the sacred writings, but it is incum- 
bent upon us, for the present, to trace, as it were, the sil- 
houette of virtue in the pagan authors. For those who 
carefully gather the useful from each book are wont, like 
mighty rivers, to gain accessions on every hand. For the 
precept of the poet which bids us add little to little^ must 
be taken as applying not so much to the accumulation of 
riches, as of the various branches of learning. In line with 
this Bias^ said to his son, who, as he was about to set out for 
Egypt, was inquiring what course he could pursue to give 
his father the greatest satisfaction : 'Store up means for the 
journey of old age.'* By means he meant virtue, but he 
placed too great restrictions upon it, since he limited its 
usefulness to the earthly life. For if any one mentions the 
old age of Tithonus,*^ or of Arganthonius,® or of that 
Methuselah'' who is said to have lacked but thirty years of 
being a millenarian, or even if he reckons the entire period 
since the creation, I will laugh as at the fancies of a child, 

^ Proteus; see Odys. iv. 455, and Vergil, Georg. iv. 386. 

* Hesiod, W, and D, 359 : ' If you are ever adding little to little, soon 
your store will be great.' * See p. 93. 

^ See Diogenes LaSrtius i. 82-88, for this and other of the sayings 
and doings of Bias. 

*Tithonus obtained immortality from the gods, but not eternal 
youth, and so became a shrunken old man. 

• King of Tartessus in Spain. According to Herodotus (vii. 21) he 
ascended the throne at the age of forty, and reigned eighty years. 

'Gen. V. 27. 


The Right Use of Greek Literature 

since I look forward to that long, undying age, of the extent 
of which there is no limit for the mind of man to grasp, any 
more than there is of the life immortal. For the journey of 
this life eternal I would advise you to husband resources, 
leaving no stone unturned,^ as the proverb has it, whence 
you might derive any aid. From this task we shall not 
shrink because it is hard and laborious, but, remembering the 
precept that every man ought to choose the better life, and 
expecting that association will render it pleasant, we shall 
busy ourselves with those things that are best. For it is 
shameful to squander the present, and later to call back the 
past in anguish, when no more time is given. 

In the above treatise I have explained to you some of the 
things which I deem the most to be desired; of others I shall 
continue to counsel you so long as life is allowed me. Now 
as the sick are of three classes, according to the degrees 
of their sickness, may you not seem to belong to the third, 
or incurable, class, nor show a spiritual malady like that of 
their bodies! For those who are slightly indisposed visit 
physicians in person, and those who are seized by violent 
sickness call physicians, but those who are suffering from 
a hopelessly incurable melancholy do not even admit the 
physicians if they come. May this now not be your plight, 
as would seem to be the case were you to shun these right 
counsels ! 

* Cf . Eur. Iferacl, 1002, and Bartlett, Fam, Quot, (9th ed.), p. 809. 



For those readers who care to know the immediate antecedents of Plutarch's essay, 
the following pages offer a translation of the concluding paragraphs of Schlemm's 
dissertation De Fontibus Plutarchi Contmentationunt de Audiendis Poetis. Inci- 
dentally, the writer would say that he is of the opinion that Herr Schlemm has -made 
too little allowance for the direct influence of Aristotle and Plato upon Plutarch. The 
numerals indicate the pages and lines of my translation. 

Now that we have treated the chapters of this essay in detail, let us 
briefly survey it as a whole, in order that we may see what plan Plutarch 
followed in its composition. It is very evident that, although he fre- 
quently interpolated extraneous matter, he started out with a certain 
definite plan of treatment in mind. 

The entire matter falls into two parts. The former explains what 
restrictions must be placed upon the student of the poets, lest his 
morals or his views on fundamentally important questions be corrupted, 
and extends to the end of chapter IX. The latter embraces the remain- 
ing chapters, and considers those methods which the reader should 
employ to turn the study of the poets to the greatest possible account. 

In the former part of the treatise first place is given to those maxims 
which may be deduced from the nature of the art of poetry (chapters 
II-III). Chapter II is concerned with certain Peripatetic principles, 
and, as shown above, Plutarch had taken these from the writings of 
some Peripatetic, who, to counteract the influence of Plato's uncer- 
tainty on that point, maintained that the fictitious is a legitimate element 
in poetry. The illustrations show that he must have had the book be- 
fore his eyes as he wrote, and his plan seems to have been to incorpo- 
rate here and there in his text those things which he read in this book. 

Similarly, in the first part of chapter III Plutarch used the book of 
another Peripatetic, who likewise had written on the nature of the 
arts, and Plutarch either had made excerpts from this book, or actually 
had it at hand at the time of writing. The latter part of this chapter is 
concerned with those false sentiments from the poets which may be 
corrected by mere observation. These passages fall into two classes : 
one embraces those verses in which the poets themselves offer the 
means for correcting unfortunately expressed sentiments ; the other, 
those verses which, though no escape therefrom is offered by the author, 
may yet be amended by the sayings of other illustrious men. 

In the first part of chapter IV, in addition to his own illustrations (for 
example, the one taken from Menander), he employed some commen- 
tary on Homer, and even went so far as to accept illustrations which 



were foreign to his subject. The examples in the last part of the chap- 
ter he himself brought together. In the first part, he presented the dis- 
cussion on Aints (ififaaic) in Homer, in which he quoted Antisthenes' 
two interpretations of the fables of the gods' in Homer, which were 
doubtless known to Plutarch through Homeric studies. In that which 
followed, on the contradictions in the poets, he seemed to pursue the 
plan of dividing into two groups those passages from the comic and 
tragic poets which he had borrowed from the writings of the Stoics — 
chiefly indeed from Chrysippus — and of adding independently several 
illustrations taken from Homer (64. 13-21). 

The third method which Plutarch proposed for removing the stum- 
bling-blocks in the poets is to be sure of the correct interpretation of 
every word. Of this he gave most numerous and diverse examples, 
some of which he collected himself (68. 3flf.; 69. 15-28; 71. i6flf.; 72. 
25, where, perhaps from memory, he interwove Stoic fragments with 
his own), and some of which, drawn from the writings of others, of the 
Grammarians (68. 20-69. 8), of Zeno and Chrysippus, the Stoics (67. i- 
15; 69. 29-71. 15), he explained and elaborated. 

After he had explained and fully illustrated how one may be on his 
guard lest his morals be corrupted by reading poetry, suddenly he 
again began to analyze the nature of the art of poetry, and to consider 
what must be looked for in poetic undertakings, and as above, with 
here and there something of his own (74. 10-19; 75* 2-14), he cited and 
explained those ideas which, with ample illustrations (75. 14 ff.), he 
found in the book of some Peripatetic. To these he added other ex- 
amples, in part taken from the Homeric studies of the Grammarians 
(76. 3-20), and in part from those of the Peripatetics (76. 23-78. 4), and 
also an original precept concerning the reading of tragedies (78. 8 fF.). 
In like manner he turned Bion's theory of the treatment of poets to his 
own use, by saying that the reason for every utterance of a poet should 
be ascertained. 

In the latter half of the treatise, of all the theories which he advanced 
by which the reader may get the greatest good from the truthful utter- 
ances of the poets, the best are those drawn from the writings of the 
Stoics. From them he took the matter included between 84. 14 and 
85. 12, with the exception of a very few lines from 84. 22-85. i» All of 
this, and notably the illustrations — ^the application of which has been 
shown to agree with the teachings of the Stoics — undoubtedly is to be 
traced to the similar works of Zeno (wept woitfTuc^ CKpodaeug — Concerning 
the Study of Poetry)^ of Cleanthes (nepl tov woitfTov — Concerning the Poet), 
and of Chrysippus {rcepl tov 7r«f del tuv noifffidrav dtcoheiv — Ifow One 
Should Study Poetry), 

The latter part of chapter XI (85. 24-87. 17) is based on Zeno's dis- 
cussion of the relative place of wisdom ((pp6v9fcic) among the virtues in 



the Homeric writings. Plutarch was here either drawing upon Zeno's 
essay Concerning the Study of Poetry^ or upon some other of his writ- 
ings, and with the original he mingled certain ideas of his own (86. 14- 
23), and others drawn from still another source (87. 6-14). 

In composing the first part of chapter XIII, Plutarch unquestionably 
had at hand the book of Chrysippus on How One Should Study Poetry^ 
the title of which, we have good reason to believe, Plutarch imitated. 

He quotes other passages which are not so arranged as to be able to 
be traced to such and such a work of such a Stoic, but must have been 
taken from his note-books compiled while reading the Stoics. Among 
these are those corrections of passages on page 88 (19-31), which he 
followed up with some similar suggestions of his own (88 entire), and 
also the instances of censure and praise in Homer (91. 25-92. 22), to 
which he likewise made not a few additions (92. 22-93. 3). 

Besides these ideas borrowed from others, he also advanced certain 
of his own, and illustrated them by examples drawn in part from most 
diverse sources, and in part original with himself. To this division 
must be assigned, first of all, those reflections on the diversity of mor- 
als and habits among the different heroes and peoples in Homer, from 
which, as Plutarch thinks, may be determined what should be avoided 
and what emulated. One illustration only in this chapter is not 
Homeric (82. 6-13), and that is taken from the select works of the 
Alexandrian grammarians. Here also are to be assigned the two illus- 
trations at the beginning of chapter XII, obtained from other sources 
(II. xxiii. 297 from the Peripatetics), the illustration taken from 
Archilochus, and lastly the theory of the mission of poetry (ea poeta- 
rum pertractandorum ratio), for which he found some of his illustra- 
trations elsewhere (93. 18-22), and invented some himself. 



[c is the abbreviation for cited, q for quoted.] 

Academy, 88, Ii6. 

Mjlles, 23, 54, 61, 75, 7^ 79, 80, 82, 83, 84, 88, pa 

Action, relative importance of, in tragedy, 52. 

Actuality, its relation to truth, 25-26. 

Address to Young Men, epitomized, 39; closely follows Justin, 

Athenagoras, Qement, and Origen, 43. 
^drastus, 83, 92. 

Adulation, not to be cultivated, 118. 
^e^chylus, c or q., 55, 87, 94. 
^e^op, 49; Socrates employed fables of, 53. 
"^ethe, 87. 

^^amemnon, 54, 61, 75, 7^, 79, 87, 89. 
^^esilaus, anecdote of, 84; biographical notice of, 84. 
"^'•w^, peculiar use of, 68. 
-^jax, 71, 82, 92. 
-^Icmaeon, 92. 

-Alexander, anecdotes of, 27, 112. 
-Alexis, q., 65; biographical notice of, 65. 
-Allegories, defined, 62. 
AX6eiw, various meanings of, considered, 68. 
'Amethyst, a charm against drunkenness, 50. 
-Amphiaraus, 87. 

-Angelo, Michel, no judge of his own work, 13. 
'Anteia, 86. 

-Anti-Gnosticism, see Gnosticism. 
-Antilochus, 86. 
-Antimachus, 83. 

-Antisthenes, q., 88; biographical notice of, 88. 
-Ants, habits of gold-gathering, 117. 
-Aphrodite, 62, 

Apollo, 54, 55, 74. 
Appetites, to be controlled, 114. 
Archer, simile of, iii. 

Archilochus, q., 69, 88; fox of, 118, 123; biographical notice of, 118. 
Ares, 62, 69. 

'Apenj, metaphorical uses of, 71. 

Arganthonius, old age of, 119; biographical notice of, 119. 
Arianism, championed by Eunomius, 36; opposed by Basil, 36-38; 
fostered by Valens, 37. 



Arianism, Semi-, a warring faction in the church, 37. 

Aristarchus, c, 76, 82; biographical notice of, 76, 

Ariston, c, 49; biographical notice of, 49. 

Aristophanes, c, 63, 83. 

Aristophon, c, 22, 59. 

Aristotle, c. or q., 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 52, 53, 60, 
67, 72, 73» 75» 87, 112, 114; his indifference to metre, 14; his 
theory of imitation, 19-21 ; his theory of the mission of poetry, 

Aristoxenus, c, 74. 

Art, useful and imitative, compared, 18; imitative and sincere com- 
pared, 19. 

Artist, Plato's conception of, 18; simile of, 109. 

Asshurbanipal, 113. 

Athenagoras, attitude toward Greek philosophy, 41; c, 43. 

Athene, 62, 74, 75, 83. 

Athens, 35, 63. 

Athletics, analogies drawn from, iii, 112- 11 3. 

Atreus, 89. 

Bacchantes, why they use rhythm, 15; ravings of, 115. 

Bacchylides, q., 94; biographical notice of, 94. 

Basil, St,, date and place of birth, 33; his parentage and relatives, 
33-34; his home life, 33; studied under Libanius in Byzantium, 
34, 107; studied at Athens, 35; formed friendships with 
Gregory Nazianzen and Julian, 34; returned from Athens to 
Caesarea, 35 ; practiced law at Caesarea, 35 ; visited hermits in 
Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor, 35; erected a monastery at 
Pontus, 35; visited by Gregory, 35; cared for famine-stricken 
people, 35; opposed Eunomius, 36; estranged from Julian, 36; 
ordained priest, 36; raised to the episcopate of Caesarea, 37; 
defied Valens, 37; opposed by warring sects, 38; his noble 
struggle for the faith, 38; his hold upon the common people, 
38; his eloquence, 38-39; wherein he triumphed, 38; his death, 
39; his funeral, 39; c, 77, 104. 

Batrachus, 23, 59. 

Battle, the Christian life a, 103. 

Bee, similes of, 83, 87, 105. 

Bellerophon, 86. 

Bias, c. or q., 93, 119; biographical notice of, 93. 

Bion, c, 79; anecdote of, 66; biographical notice of, 66. 

B(oros, various meanings of, 68. 

Body, to be made superior to appetites, 114-119; care for, cause of 
most sins, 117. 

Boxer, anecdote of, 83. 



Briseis, 76, 88. 

Buffoons, antics of, to be ignored, 115. 

Butcher, c or q., 21, 75. 

Byzantium, 34. 

Caesarea, birthplane of Basil, 33 ; Basil practiced law in, 35. 

Calchas, 81. 

Calypso, 76, 

Cantharides, cures its own poison, 67, 

Carpenter, simile of, iii. 

Cassandra, 74. 

Cdto, c, 49, 81 ; anecdote of, 78. 

Chaerephanes, subjects painted by, 22, 59; biographical notice of, 59. 

Character, relative importance of, in tragedy, 52 ; one of the six parts 

of tragedy, 53. 
Charioteer, simile of, 116. 
Chilo, c, 93; biographical notice of, 93. 
Chryseis, 76, 
Chrysippus, fanciful etymologies of, 85; biographical notice of, 85; 

c. or q. (Gercke), 69, 71, 90, 91, 122, 123. 
Chrysostom, c. or q., 28, 105; intimate with Libanius, 107. 
Church, of first and fourth centuries compared, 27- 
Cicero, c. and q., 60, 66, 71, 90, 108, 109, 112, 115. 
Cinesias, q., 66; biographical notice of, 66. 

Classics, studied by Basil and Gregory, 34; esteemed by Christians, 
36; Gregory's tribute to, 36; a partial expression of truth, 39; 
adapted to the immature student, 103; fitting-school for study 
of Scriptures, 103; compared with Scriptures, 103-104; praise 
virtue by noble words, 106-109; by noble deeds, 109-111; see 
also Philosophy. 
Cleanthes, fanciful etymologies of, 85; biographical notice of, 85; 

c. or q., 71, 88, 122, 123. 
Cleinias, anecdote of, iii; biographical notice of, iii. 
Clement, St., of Alexandria, Greek philosophy appreciated by, 42;- 

on inspired and profane writings, 42; c, 43, 113. 
Clothes, not to receive undue attention, 1 14. 
Clytemnestra, 74, 86. 
Color, more effective than line in painting, 52; laid on confusedly, 

not pleasing, 53; simile of, 103. 
Context, important in interpretation, 67, 
Corybantes, ravings of, 115. 
Cyrus, continence of, 84. 

Daniel, trained in Chaldean lore, 104. 
David, effect of his music, 115. 



Deception, intentionally employed by poets, 24-25; unintentionally 

employed, 24-25. 
Demonides, 60. 
Diction, richness of, desirable in poetry, 72; often conceals useful 

suggestions, 80. 
Diogenes, c or q., 66, 88, 114, 117. 
Diogenes Laertius, c, 71, 79, 114, 119. 
Diomedes, 80, 81, 82, 83. 
Dioscorides, c, 6y, 
Dolon, 82. 

Dorian mode, see Mode, 
Dragon, simile of, 117. 
Driver, simile of, 89. 
Dryas, 51. 
Dryden, c, 112. 
Dyer, simile of, 103. 

Echepolos, 87. 

Education, of Greek youth, 28-29, loi* 
Egypt, yields both good and bad herbs, 50. 
'EXa(a, metonymically used, 71. 

Emendations, to be made in bad passages, 89; character of, illus- 
trated, 89. 
Emmelia, St,, mother of Basil, her influence upon him, 33. 
Empedocles, not really a poet, 14, 53; biographical notice of, 53; 

q., 57. 
Enthusiasm, explained, 16. 

Eos, 55. 

'Eiroii^, meaning of, in expression ivoLv^ Uepffeit>6veM, 69. 

Epaminondas, lauded by Diogenes, 66; biographical notice of, 66; 

fought against Agesilaus, 84. 
Epicurus, q., 94. 
Epimetheus, 70. 

Equanimity, cultivated by study of poetry, 92; defined, 92. 
Eteocles, 60. 

Etymology, study of, important, 65. 

Euclid, of Megara, anecdote of, no; biographical notice of, no. 
E^cufwvla, meton3rmically used, 72. 
Eunomius, his zeal for Arianism, 36. 
Euripides, c. or q., 16, 56, 60, 64, 69, 73, 78, 79, 83, 88, 89, 90, 91, 

94, 109, no. 
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, ordained Basil, 36; cooperated with 

Basil in opposing Arianism, 37; c, 70. 
Eustathius, c, 84. 



Faith, Basil's loyalty to the Catholic, 38; criterion of true science, 

harmony with, 43. 
Fate, ZciJj metonjrmically used for, 69-70. 
Fialon, c, loi. 
Fiction, see Plot, 

Flute, induces Bacchanalian revelry, 115. 
Flute-players, banished from Plato's Republic, 115. 

GelliuSf c, 70. 

Generalisation, to be employed in studying poetry, 90; character 
of, explained and illustrated, 90-93. 

Glaukos, 86. 

Gnosticism, its genesis, 40; its treatment of Greek philosophy and 
of the Scriptures, 40; its logical results, mythology, mysticism, 
and theosophy, 40; partially accepted by Clement and Origen, 

Gnosticism, Anti-, championed by Tertullian, 41. 

Goat, simile of, 83. 

Gods, conflicting sentiments concerning, 64; names of, used to de- 
note Fortune and Fate, 69, 71. 

Gold-dust, tradition of Lydian, explained, 117. 

Gorgias, q., 51 ; biographical notice of, 51. 

Grammarians, c, 122, 123. 

Greeks f compared with Trojans, 80-83. 

Gregory Nazianzen, St., friendship of, for Basil, 34; disposition of, 
34; scholarship of, 34, 36; reluctance of, to leave Athens, 35; 
visited Basil in Pontus, 35; quarrel of, with Basil, 38; c, 105. 

Gregory Nyssen, St., brother of Basil, 34. 

Grief, a cause of music, 15. 

Gymnastics, simile of, 103. 

Hades, 54, 55, 56, 66; torments of, described, 114. 

Hair, not to receive undue attention, 114. 

Harmony, function of, in true art, 19. 

Hector, 23, 55, 62, 82, 83, 84, 91. 

Hecuba, 78. 

Helen, 60, 78. 

Helios, 62. 

Hephaestus, 69, 92. 

Hera, 62, 63. 

Heraclides, c, 49 ; biographical notice of, 49. 

Hercules, episode of, 108. 

Hermas, attitude of, toward philosophy, 41. 

Herodotus, c, 117, 118, 119. 

Hesiod, q., 71, 72, 79, 90, 93, loi, 119; wrote to incite virtue, 106. 



History, inferior to poetry, 20; distinguished from painting, 58; 
to be read discriminatingly, 105 ; contains examples of virtuous 
deeds, 109. 

Hog, imitated by Parmenio, 22, 59; simile of, 83. 

Homer, c. or q., 27, 41, 50, 51, 54, 55, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 69, 70, 71, 
72, 73, 74, 75. 76y 77* 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 91, 92, 93, 
106, 107, 109, 113, 119, 122, 123; works of, infused with moral 
feeling, 27 ; received partial revelation of the Logos, 41 ; weaves 
mixture of virtue and vice in characters, 73; careful to com- 
mend, or condemns characters and actions, 61-63; shows slight 
regard for externalities, 91-92; all poetry of, a praise of virtue, 

Horace, c. or q., 29, 94. 

Idomeneus, 92. 

Illusion, place of, in poetry, 24-25. 

Itnitation, meaning of, in Greek criticism, 18; Plato's interpretation 
of, 18-19 ; Aristotle's interpretation of, 19-21 ; Plutarch's inter- 
pretation of, 21-26, 58-60; an imitation of an imitation, 18; the 
assumption of another's character, 19; an inborn instinct, 20; 
an idealizing of life, 20; objects of, 21, 22, 23; nature of, 24; 
fundamental in poetry and painting, 21, 58, 72; weaves a mix- 
ture of virtue and vice, 73. 

Inspiration, a cause of music, 15. 

Ionian mode, see Mode, 

IsocrateSf q., 29. 

Ithacans, 51. 

Ixion, 60. 

Jacobs, c, 117. 

Joy, a cause of music, 15. 

Judgment, function of, in music, 17 ; function of, in poetic interpre- 
tation, 75. 

Julian, Emperor, friendship of, for Basil and Gregory, 34; invited 
Basil to Rome, 36; replaced the images of the gods upon the 
standards, 36; denied study of classics to Christians, 36; ad- 
mired by Libanius, 107. 

Juno, of Argos, 118. 

Jupiter, of Elis, 118. 

Justin Martyr, his early study of Greek philosophy, 40; his accept- 
ance of Christianity, 40; his synthetic philosophy, 40; c., 42, 43. 

Eaic6ri7s, metonsrmically used, 72. 

KoXwj ^x""* philologically considered, 69. 

KafAfMvlriy philologically considered, 67, 



X^actantius, c, 115. 

ZL^ibanius, instructed Basil, 34; c, 106; biographical notice of, 106. 

JLife, human, not supremely precious, 102 ; divine, the supreme thing, 

102; Scriptures lead to, 103; should conform to professions, 

109; eternal, the great journey, 120. 
JLAves, Plutarch's, always popular, 13. 
J^ogos, the basis of Justin's philosophy, 40; partially revealed to 

Greek writers, 41, 42. 
^ucian, c, 108. 
Lucretius, q., 29. 
tycoon, 83. 

^ydian mode, see Mode, 
d^ykurgos, folly of, in destroying vineyards, 51. 

Macrina, grandmother of Basil, taught him Scriptures, 33. 

Macrina, St, sister of Basil, 34. 

Magnanimity, cultivated by study of poetry, 92; defined, 92. 

Mandrake, imparts influence to wine, 51. 

Manners, good and bad to be distinguished in poetry, 80-81. 

Margites, 113; note explaining the, 113. 

Marsyas, music of, 112. 

Medea, 21, 58. 

Melanthius, c, 63; biographical notice of, 63. 

Meleager, 76. 

Menander, q., 61, 65, 72, 90, 121. 
Metal-worker, simile of, iii. 
Methuselah, old age of, 119. 
Metre, not the sole requisite of poetry, 14. 
Milo, anecdote of, 112; biographical notice of, 112. 
Milton, no judge of his own work, 13; q., 59. 
Modes, enumeration of, 17; mixed Lydian, moves affections, 74; 
mixed Lydian, defined, 74; Dorian, defined, 74; Dorian, joined 
with mixed Lydian, by tragedians, 74; mixed Lydian, inyented 
by Sappho, 74; air in Phrygian, played to Alexander by Timo- 
theus, 112; air in Dorian, sobered revellers, 115. 

Musical contest, analogy drawn from, 112. 

Musician, simile of, 109. 

Mysticism, a result of Gnosticism, 40. 

Mythology, a result of Gnosticism, 40. 

Names, not to blind one to character, 74. 

Nature, relation of poetry to, 18-28; divine, seated far from joy or 

grief, 94; conformity to, secret of happiness, 95. 
Nausicaa, 76, 
Nestor, 81. 



Newman, c, loi. 

Nicander, not really a poet, 14, 53 ; biographical notice of, 53. 

Nobility, may be learned from poetry, 85-87. 

Odysseus, 63, 76, 77, 84, 85, 90, 91, 92, 107; Parrhasius's picture of, 

22, 59. 
OTicos, various meanings of, considered, 68. 
Ointments, not to be used, 116. 

Olympus, the Phrygian, music of, 112; biographical notice of, 112. 
Orestes, Theon's picture of, 21, 58. 
Origen, his adherence to views of Clement, 42-43. 

Painting, silent poetry, 21, 58; distinguished from history, 58. 

Pandarus, 62, 86. 

Panthea, 84. 

Paris, licentiousness of, 60, 91. 

Parmenides, not really a poet, 14, 53; biographical notice of, 53. 

Parmenio, hog imitated by, 22, 59. 

Parrhasius, his picture of Odysseus, 22, 59; biographical notice of, 

Pataecion, 66, 

Pater, q., 29. 

Paul, c. or q., 40, 116. 

Pausanias, c, 112. 

Penelope, 77, 

Perfumes, not to be used, 116. 

Pericles, anecdote of, 109-110. 

Peripatetics, c, 66, 75, 121-123. 

Persius, c, 112. 

Peter, St., brother of Basil, 34. 

Phaeacians, 107. 

Phaedra, 78. 

*iryAj, metonymically used, 71. 

Phidias, illustration from his Jupiter, 118. 

Philemon, q., 92; biographical notice of, 92. 

Philosophy, relation of, to truth, 26-27; to poetry, 27; place of, 
in education, 27 ; Greek, employed by the Gnostics, 40 ; of Jus- 
tin, analyzed, 41; condemned by Tatian, Hermas, Theophilus, 
41; esteemed by Athenagoras and Clement, 41; not attractive 
to young unless garnished, 49; poetry to be tempered by, 51- 
52, 93-96 ; the source of right ideas, 93 ; poetry fitting-school for, 

52; 95-96. 
Philoxenus, q., 49; biographical notice of, 49. 
Phoenix, 76, 
Phrygian mode, see Mode, 



Pilotf simile of, 89, iii. 

Pindar, c. or q., 55, 64, 94. 

Pittacus, q., 113; biographical notice of, 113. 

Plato, his theory of inspiration, 13 ; of imitation, 18-19 ; of the mis- 
sion of poetry, 29 ; received partial revelation of the Logos, 41 ; 
c. and q., 17, 18, 19, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 40, 41, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 
57, 62, 63, 64, 75, 81, 93, 94, 103, 105, 106, 108, 109, 114, 115, 
116, 121. 

Plato, Pseudo-, c, 115. 

Pleasure, place of, in poetry, 28-31 ; should be merely a relish, 49. 

Plot, more engaging than metre or tropes, 52; one of the six parts 
of tragedy, 53; most essential element in poetry, 53; designed 
to cause pleasurable fear, 55; kinds of, 73; must appear prob- 
ble, 73; employs reversal of fortune, 73; conceals useful sug- 
gestions, 80. 

Plutarch, no judge of his own work, 13; his triteness and prag- 
matism, 14; his theory of poetry, 13-32; summary of his work 
by Professor Christ, 31-32; c. and q., 15, 16, 18, 22, 23, 26, 27, 
52, 58, 60, 63, 64, 70, 74, 79, 107, 109, no, 112, 121-123. 

Plutarch, Pseudo-, c, 75, 81, 82, 85. 

Poetry, how different from prose, 14-18; the product of both intel- 
lect and feeling, 15 ; a gift to rare temperaments, 16 ; nature of 
lyric, 16; relation of, to music, 17; to philosophy, 17; to nature 
and to truth, 18-28; is vocal painting, 21, 58; an imitative art, 
20, 21, 58; imitates men as they ought to be, 20; deception in, 
24-25 ; Plutarch's unrestricted use of the term, 27-28 ; relatively 
independent of truth, 27; traditional view of its mission, 28; 
Plato's theory of its mission, 29; Aristotle's theory, 30; Plu- 
tarch's theory, 30-31; place of pleasure in, 28-30; both helpful 
and injurious, 50; to be tempered by philosophy, 51-52, 93-96; 
the fitting-school for philosophy, 52, 95-96; deceptive juggling 
of, 54; should embody commendation and condemnation of 
words and acts, 61-62; themes of, to be taken from men of 
understanding, 63; contradictions in, modify its influence, 63- 
64; must employ probable plots, 72; uses variety and transi- 
tions, 73 ; defined, 74 ; to be accepted in proportion to its moral 
soundness, 78, 104, in; may teach virtue, nobility, wisdom, and 
self-control, 83-86, 106; carefully studied teaches equanimity 
and magnanimity, 92. 

Poliager, 77. 

Polycletus, illustration from his Juno, 118; biographical notice of, 

Polydamas, anecdote of, 112; biographical notice of, 112. 

Polypus, good to eat, but causes bad dreams, 50; changeable colors 
of, 119; 



Pontus, seat of Basirs monastery, 35. 

Pope, deaf to Basil's requests, 38. 

ndroi, a philological illustration, 67. 

Porphyria (Schrader), c, 62, 63, 69, 70, 81. 

Porphyry, c, 115, 116. 

Poseidon, 54, 86. 

Poverty, honest, no disgrace, 70. 

Priam, 84. 

Probability, importance of, in plot, 24-25, 53; universality condi- 
tioned upon it, 53. 

Prodicus, q., 108. 

Prometheus, 70. 

Prose, see Poetry. 

Proserpine, 69. 

Proteus, 118. 

Pythagoras, received partial revelation of the Logos, 41 ; anecdote 
of, 115; c. and q., 93, iii, 116. 

Pythian Priestess, subject to education, 17. 

Pythius, biographical notice of, 118. 

Races, characteristics of different, 81-83. 

Reversal of Fortune, in plot, defined, 73. 

Rhetoricians, to be read discriminatingly, 105. 

Rhythm, function of, in art, 19. 

Riches, conflicting sentiments concerning, 64, 65; useless without 
virtue, 94 ; happiness does not consist in, 95 ; of nature, limited, 
95 ; earthly, inferior to heavenly, 102 ; opinions of philosophers 
upon, 1 1 7- 1 18. 

lPiyeSav6s, philologically considered, 67, 

Roses, simile of, 105. 

Sabellianism, warring faction in the church, 37. 

Saintsbury, c, 29, 62. 

Sappho, invented mixed Lydian mode, 74. 

Sardanapalus, idleness of, 113; biographical notice of, 113. 

Schlemm, c, 62, (16, 75, 121 -123. 

Scriptures, taught Basil by mother and grandmother, 33; perfect 
revelation of truth, 39; interpreted allegorically by Gnostics, 
40 ; only source of truth, 41 ; have much in common with Greek 
philosophy, 42-43 ; conduct to the divine life, 103 ; need mature 
students, 103 ; classics prepare one for study of, 103 ; compared 
with classics, 103-104; c. and q., 102, 104, no, in, 113, 115, 
117, 119. 

Self -control, may be learned from poetry, 84, 86, 87, no. 

Seneca, c, 85. 



Ship, simile of, 102, in. 

Sickness, three kinds of, described, 120. 

Silanion, c, 22, 59. 

Simonides, c. or q., 51, 58, 113; biographical notice of, 50. 

Sisyphus, 23, 59. 

Skill, in art, defined, 17. 

Socrates f could not invent plots, 53; anecdote of, no; c, 57, 65, 

88, 118. 
Solon, received partial revelation of the Logos, 41; biographical 

notice of, 107; q., 107, 117, 
Sophistry, condemned, 78. 
Sophocles, q., 16, 56, 64, 65, 66, 69, 70, 88. 
Soul, care of, the supreme interest, 114; purity of, defined, 115. 
Stage, simile of, 109. 
Sthenelus, 80. 
Stobaeus, c, 71. 

Stoics, c, 66, 85, 91 ; vice, how treated by, 73, 
Sun, simile of, 95, 103, 105. 

Tatian, attitude of, toward philosophy, 41. 

Telemachus, 85. 

Theodorus, his imitation of sound of pulleys, 22, 59. 

Theognis, not really a poet, 14, 54; biographical notice of, 54; c. 
and p., 66, 107, 117. 

Theon, his picture of Drestes, 21, 58; biographical notice of, 58. 

Theophilus, attitude of, toward philosophy, 41. 

Theophrastus, his discussion of music, 15. 

Theosophy, a result of Gnosticism, 40. 

Thersites, face of, in art, 21 ; representations of, how praiseworthy, 
23, 59, 80, 82. 

Theseus, 78. 

Thespis, q., 94; biographical notice of, 94. 

Thessaliaps, stupidity of, 51. 

Thetis, 55, 88. 

6o<£f€ty, meaning of, considered, 68. 

Timotheus, the statuary, picture of Medea by, 21, 58; biographical 
notice of, 58. 

Timotheus, the dithyrambic poet, anecdote of, 66; biographical 
notice of, 66; c, 87. 

Timotheus, the flute-player of Thebes, anecdote of, 112; biographi- 
cal notice of, 112. 

Tithonus, old age of, 119; biographical notice of, 119. 

Tragedy, defined, 53 ; parts of, 53 ; employs the mixed Lydian mode, 

Tree, simile of, 103. 



Trojans, compared with Greeks, 80-83. 

Truth, relation of, to poetry, 18-28, 95; to philosophy, 25-26; per- 
fectly revealed in Scriptures, 39; partially expressed in Greek 
literature, 39 ; its severity not attractive in poetry, 52 ; not to be 
confounded with artistic excellence, 59; to be the guide of life, 
118. . 

Ueberweg, analysis of Clement's philosophy by, 42-43. 
Useful, the, how gained from suspicious passages, 88. 

Valens, the emperor, Arianism supported by, 37. 

Vergil J c, 119. 

Verrall, q., 87. 

Vice, how treated by Homer and Euripides, 73; how by the Stoics, 
7^", episode of, 108. 

VUlemain, q., 36. 

Vine, simile of, 80, 116. 

Virtue, how treated by Homer and Euripides, 73 ; how by the Stoics, 
7S ; may be learned from poetry, 83, 106 ; product of reason and 
education, 87; quotations extolling, 94; should become a habit, 
106; all poetry of Homer praises, 106; the only sure posses- 
sion, 107; episode of, 108; extolled by writers upon wisdom, 
108; a sufficient ornament, 118; silhouette of, in pagan authors, 

Wace and Schaff, c, loi. 

Water, should be mixed with wine, 51. 

Wisdom, may be learned from poetry, 86; writers on, praise virtue, 

Words, meanings of, to be carefully determined, 67-72. 
Wordsworth, no judge of his own work, 13. 
Wyttenbach, c, 94. 

Xenophanes, q., 57; biographical notice of, 57. 
Xenophon, c. or q., 29, 84, 108. 

Youth, an impressionable period, 106. 

Zeller, c, 91. 

Zeno, c. or q., 71, 85, 88. 

ZetJj, meanings of, considered, 69-70, 85. 

Zeus, 54, 55, 62, 63, 69, 70, 71, 74, 80, 84, 85, 86, 87, 93, 122, 123.